Hello/ Bonjour, I am Mathoora Uthayakumar and I want to thank you for reading this post! I am a primary/junior teacher candidate who will be working with different stakeholders and the FESI committee to ensure the annual FESI/RSEKN conference will be successful. I look forward to tackling the barriers and disrupting the cannon especially during this time in the world of education, as Ontario is seeing a crucial change.
As I am finishing up my last school practicum, I am eager to head into the community and join a group of educators who are trying to elicit change and have a positive impact among our youth. However, I am feeling discouraged. Why? I have observed educators continuing to teach our students outdated information about Canada. This is part of the “hidden curriculum.” Students are not well informed, if at all, about Canada’s colonial history, and are still being taught about Canada through a settler-colonial mindset. This is often difficult to undo without exposing this mindset and without someone to show you how to engage in decolonizing our minds and our pedagogy. Students do not understand the importance of the land acknowledgement and often counter my requests to listen carefully with a confused “Why?”
In all fairness, I can’t be upset with them; they have never learned the meaning of the land acknowledgement. It is March and I wonder about how many classrooms have actually unpacked the land acknowledgement. As I entered practicum, I tried to assess how much the students knew about Indigenous histories. I realized very shortly that their knowledge was limited. This led to my first initiative in the class: creating and executing a unit about the first peoples of Canada. I wonder how our education system and society would differ in the education system supported Indigenous education in the way it supports EQAO. I am fortunate to have been able to share my knowledge with the students, as some Teacher Candidates have not been so lucky.
Being the Communications Officer for the GTA Regional Team of RSEKN, I am realizing that there are educators and community partners who also seek to deconstruct and dismantle our European settler-colonial mindsets and curriculum, and who care about truth and reconciliation. It gives me hope.
During my B.Ed, my colleagues and I have been encouraged to “Indigenize” our classrooms by including Indigenous stories, history and culture into what we teach organically and with deep respect. We make our lessons relatable to all students and draw on our commonalities while valuing our different. I do wish that materials about Indigenous peoples and world views, written by Indigenous people, was more easily accessible, while many individual teachers and teacher librarians are doing their best, there needs to be more support and resources at the system level.
By joining the FESIcommittee and taking on the role of the Communications Officer, I have been able to connect and network with community partners, superintendents, principals, and fellow educators, whom all have the same intent and passion to support and represent all who are present in their classroom. They are also deconstructing colonial histories and present-day structures and practise and speaking truth to power.
The conference is developing very well, and I look forward to all of the speakers and workshops we have planned to challenge the cannon and look to the future!
Thank you/ Merci
Written by Mathoora Uthayakumar