Celebrating Teachers for transforming education and empowering reconciliation on World Teachers’ Day
World Teacher’s Day was established by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) to celebrate teachers around the globe. Celebrated since 1994, October 5, 2022 marks the 28th World Teacher Day. The theme for this year’s celebration is “The transformation of education begins with teachers”. According to the UNESCO, a three-day celebration from October 5th-7th, will address the commitments and calls for action made at the Transforming Education Summit, in September 2022.
In Canada, Teachers are at the forefront of Reconciliation, with the potential to transform education and inspire the next generation to create a more inclusive, fair Canada.
Education for Reconciliation
The Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, published by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) in 2015, outlines a path for government and Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to create a joint vision of reconciliation across a range of areas, including education. The Education for Reconciliation actions 62-65 are:
62. We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, in consultation and collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal peoples, and educators, to:
Make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples' historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students.
Provide the necessary funding to post-secondary institutions to educate teachers on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms.
Provide the necessary funding to Aboriginal schools to utilize Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods in classrooms.
Establish senior-level positions in government at the assistant deputy minister level or higher dedicated to Aboriginal content in education.
63. We call upon the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada to maintain an annual commitment to Aboriginal education issues, including:
Developing and implementing Kindergarten to Grade Twelve curriculum and learning resources on Aboriginal peoples in Canadian history, and the history and legacy of residential schools.
Sharing information and best practices on teaching curriculum related to residential schools and Aboriginal history.
Building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect.
Identifying teacher-training needs relating to the above.
64. We call upon all levels of government that provide public funds to denominational schools to require such schools to provide an education on comparative religious studies, which must include a segment on Aboriginal spiritual beliefs and practices developed in collaboration with Aboriginal Elders.
65. We call upon the federal government, through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, post-secondary institutions and educators, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and its partner institutions, to establish a national research program with multi-year funding to advance understanding of reconciliation.
Educators and Reconciliation
Teachers have a crucial role to play in creating a more equitable Canada. The Honourable Murray Sinclair, the former Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) Chair, said “Education is what got us into this mess and education is key to getting us out of it.”
Incorporating Indigenous histories, culture, and perspectives into their lessons, provides the opportunity for students to learn about the Peoples with whom they share this land. From that learning comes understanding and the opportunity to inspire tomorrows Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders to move Reconciliation forward. It is a great responsibility, and one that can be difficult for teachers to navigate.
As explained in an article in Education Canada, 2018, “Teachers have a responsibility to work with Indigenous people, families, and communities, rather than continuing to work in a system that speaks for Indigenous people, families, and communities – that is, don’t do for, do with. It is also vital that teachers understand that doing nothing adds to the problem. When teachers do nothing, Indigenous children don’t see themselves in their classrooms, and non-Indigenous children do not learn about this land’s first – and continuing – inhabitants. Then, students implicitly learn that Indigenous people, knowledge, and perspectives are worth less, and they may continue to pass on the systemic injustices that have gotten us into this situation.”
With the discovery of the unmarked graves of 215 children from Kamloops Indian residential school and the thousands of children recovered since, teachers face an even greater responsibility to share the truth about Indigenous peoples and the impact of colonization.
In response, educators across Canada have navigated the political, emotional, and logistical challenges involved in fostering reconciliation in their classrooms.
They have taken action by supporting Orange Shirt Day, National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Indigenous Peoples Day, and Indigenous History month. They have developed programs that extend throughout the school year, empowering people of all ages to learn about the history of Residential School and their impacts, acknowledge Indigenous lands, celebrate Indigenous culture, and understand Indigenous perspectives.
Canadian Teachers and World Teacher Day
"If the truth comes before the reconciliation, then Canadian teachers are at the forefront of this country’s future." – Dr. Kate Freeman, Shawn McDonald, and Dr. Lindsay Morcom
World Teacher Day is an opportunity to acknowledge and thank our teachers for their dedication and commitment to help develop generations of compassionate, confident, critical thinkers ready to make their mark on the world.
In Canada, it is especially important to recognize the incredible impact they have on our future leaders and their determination to advance Reconciliation through Education in their classrooms.
Support for Teachers
There are many resources to support Teachers fostering reconciliation in their classrooms. Some of these include:
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (https://nctr.ca/education/) has developed a Teaching Resource Collection of over 300 resources to support education of Residential Schools and related topics.
The EdCan Network contains articles and resources for teachers (https://www.edcan.ca/?s=reconciliation) including this infographic: https://www.edcan.ca/wp-content/uploads/EdCan-Truth_andReconciliation_infographic-final-EN.pdf
The Critical Thinking Consortium devolved a teaching unit called What Can I contribute to Meaningful Reconciliation - Teaching and learning about residential schools (https://tc2.ca/uploads/PDFs/reconciliation/meaningful_reconciliation.pdf) in collaboration with the Grand Erie District School Board.
Teaching for Truth and Reconciliation is a resource developed for Educators by Queens University Library. (https://guides.library.queensu.ca/teaching-for-reconciliation/home)