Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending Aurora College’s professional development sessions on Teacher Leadership. Developmental studies instructors from the three college campuses and community adult educators from all NWT communities attended. It was a time to re-engage with old friends, meet new colleagues, and learn together.
Often at northern meetings we bring in southern scholars – ‘experts’, leaders in their field – but this meeting was different; the ‘experts’ came from amongst us. On this occasion we saw outstanding examples of teacher leadership through keynote addresses delivered by northern educators with a wealth of experience and knowledge.
Dr. Angela James is the Director of the Indigenous Languages and Learning Secretariat in the Dept of Education, Culture and Employment. Dr. Suzanne Robinson is an Aurora College instructor in Developmental Studies at Yellowknife Campus. Both essentially addressed the issue of identity in different ways and stressed its importance in the learning process.
Angela interviewed twelve Elders and followed their stories to learn about the influences that shape a capable person from an Indigenous perspective. She believes that knowing what these influences are can help shape ‘a new approach to pedagogy and practice’ in northern teaching and learning.
Suzanne’s keynote was “Northern Perspectives on Knowledge, Learning and Realizing Dreams.”. Her adult students used photographs and video to conduct their own research into identity. Suzanne believes that student research is a means of power sharing, as well as a path towards reconciliation.
The two keynotes led into discussions on the topic of teacher leadership and the place of identity in learning. John Clarke, the facilitator for the sessions, engaged participants in examining various aspects of leadership. As part of the process, he demonstrated a broad range of strategies that could help people fulfil their role as teacher leaders.
The opportunity to share ideas is integral to professional growth and continuous improvement. These sessions – the keynotes and the discussions – reinforced for me the importance of adult education for people who have not always succeeded in the formal education system, and the important role that we as northern educators play. We know our context; we are passionate about our work; we care about the learners who come through our doors; and collectively we have the knowledge, skills, and experience to make a difference in the lives of adult learners.
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