Best Practices for Non-Aboriginal Teachers

Seeing that one of the driving forces behind my creating this resource was my own fear as a Non-Aboriginal educator teaching the knowledge and stories of the FNMI people I thought it was appropriate to provide those of you with the same fear or apprehensions a list of suggestions which has been adapted from: Best Practices in Teaching Aboriginal Children form an Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Perspective. By Theresa Wilson, (Master’s Thesis:Conversations with First Nations Educators) 2001 UVic

  • Develop relationships with students but do not try to co-opt or represent their perspectives.
  • Challenge students to think critically, model this kind of thinking in lectures and class discussions.

Attributes of Successful Instruction:

  • Setting high expectations means a teachershowing thier students that they are fully capable of being autonomous learners.
  • Show students how to learn.
  • Maintaing self awareness: do not represent yoursef as seeing through Aboriginal eyes.  Instead, idetify and critique your position within the dominant culture.  Make a distinction between the critical tools to be acquired and the perspective or purpose through which these tools can be filtered.
  • Encourage students: when evaluating assignments, provide concrete, positive and immediate feedback.
  • Support autonomy:  the focus on the independence of the learners, develops pride and confidence in themselves.
  • Develop a warm supportive environment where learning can take place.
  • Be willing to negotiate.
  • Cultivate supportive relationships with students by attempting to see reality from their perspective.

Personal Characteristics of a good teacher

  • Be aware that there is no recipe for success in teaching.  Different things work for different learners.
  • Take the time to get to know the community
  • Recognize students for who they are and where they come form.
  • Acknowledge all students as individuals.
  • Know when and how to let go.
  • Communicate confidence in a student’s ability to learn.  Show them you have faith  in their inherent worth as an individual and as a learner
  • Demonstrate an attitude of respect.
  • Enjoy being in your class.
  • Personal attributes: kindness, honest, flexibility and persistence.

Understanding Teaching as Living:

  • Teaching models a consciousness and awareness of educators as Aboriginal persons.
  • Living the values, belief in forming relationships and modeling the belief in the classroom.
  • Speak about being genuine.
  • How we teach will communicate how we choose to live and reflect on our lives.
  • Abandon the assumption that living and teaching, private and public are separate.

Showing Respect

  • value respect in relationships.
  • Establish a classroom of respect, instances of disrespect are directly addressed.
  • Model respectful behavior and interaction.
  • Be sensitive to who your students are and where they are coming from.
  • Respecting the complexities of Aboriginal identity.
  • Accepting where the students are at in relationship to their identity.
  • Respect extends to daily interactions, knowing when to let go and when to show concern.


  • Educators accept as a given that teachers should try to connect curriculum to Aboriginal learners.
  • Teaching critical thinking to students is essential.
  • Teachers need to model a questioning stance  toward the subject matter by demonstrating their own self knowledge (cultural identity) and an open spirit of inquiry.
  • Understand the political nature of knowledge and the political nature of curriculum.
  • General or tribal knowledge comes from a particular perspective.
  • Knowledge comes form many sources, which includes emotional and spiritual ones.

Evaluating as Part of Instruction:

  • Use evaluation as an extension of classroom practices.
  • Collaboration and student involvement should be guiding principles for most classroom activities.
  • Students should devise their own projects when possible which encourages active engagement and provides evidence or their own learning.
  • Evaluation should be an ongoing feature of classroom life.
  • Feedback needs to be positive and consistent rather than negative and intermittent.
  • Provide students with meaningful choices.

About lauragroome

I am a high school teacher for the Toronto District School Board, this site is meant for my students to have greater access to what is going on in class and to raise some topics of interest.
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