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An education in reconciliation

Queen’s Faculty of Education stepping up Indigenous education programming to support teacher candidates.

Education students participate in a KAIROS Blanket Exercise
A facilitator leads Queen's teacher candidates through a KAIROS Blanket exercise.

Teacher candidates at Queen’s University took part in exercises this week aimed at supporting reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in Canada. As of September, students in the Faculty of Education became required to complete Indigenous education programming as part of their overall training.

“Canada is a diverse country of many voices and perspectives that all have a place within the structures of learning,” says Peter Chin, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Faculty of Education. “As educators, we always encourage an inclusive and equitable approach that creates safe and caring environments for students from all backgrounds. We want our teacher candidates to leave Queen’s with the skills needed to create respectful, insightful, and open environments in their future classrooms.”

The training is broken into a three-part cultural safety workshop that starts with a KAIROS blanket exercise – an interactive learning experience designed to teach Indigenous rights history – followed by a debrief discussion with the Faculty of Education’s Elder-in-Residence, Deb St. Amant. Students then learn from representatives from the Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre and various school faculties about Indigenous paradigms, relationship building, and reconciliation.

Since becoming a mandatory part of teacher candidate training in September 2018, these cultural safety courses have been completed by more than 300 students, with another 300 scheduled to complete it by the end of the academic year.

“Originally, we only had an Indigenous education course as part of a student’s final semester of the two-year program, but after talking with teacher candidates we added this additional training earlier, as they thought perspectives on reconciliation helped provide a better lens through which to view all of their studies,” says Dr. Chin.

In addition to the new training, the Faculty of Education has a wide variety of Indigenous education initiatives already in place for teacher candidates. There is a sacred medicine garden, and weekly smudging events open to all teacher candidates, as well as guest lectures from Indigenous education speakers. Opening and closing ceremonies for the education program include an Indigenous welcome, and there are even Anishinaabe interpretive depictions of the Ontario College of Teachers Standards of Practice plaque-mounted on campus.

“This is a great step for the Faculty of Education and for Queen’s, as it further bolsters culturally relevant learning opportunities and efforts toward reconciliation,” says Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill), Associate Vice-Principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation). “Incorporating Indigenous perspectives right into the curriculum in this way will prepare Queen’s students for their future roles as educators, and tomorrow’s champions of a more fair and inclusive Canada.”

Efforts toward reconciliation have stretched beyond campus into the community as well. Recently, Queen’s Faculty of Education staff members Kate Freeman and Lindsay Morcom partnered with Shawn McDonald of Algonquin & Lakeshore Catholic District School Board, and the EdCan Network to create an infographic designed to help teachers integrate Truth and reconciliation in their classrooms.

Grade 11 student, Kristian Murphy's illustration "Let Justice Speak" on display at Queen's University's Faculty of Education.
An illustration titled "Let Justice Speak" by local Grade 11 student Kristian Murphy on display at the Faculty of Education's "Imagine a Canada" exhibit.

The Faculty of Education is also supporting the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation’s “Imagine a Canada” initiative to encourage young people to share their own vision of what Reconciliation in Canada can look like. On November 26, Queen’s University’s West Campus hosted the opening of a gallery exhibit featuring art by local Kingston elementary and high school students depicting how they can help lead our nation through Reconciliation. The exhibition can be viewed at The Studio (B144) in Duncan McArthur Hall until Friday, Jan. 11.

Queen’s University offers a variety of Indigenous initiatives and supports across campus, and continues to implement strategies recommended by the Queen’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force.