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Community Politics

If you've read my blog in the past, you'll know that I work with marginalized youth in Edmonton's inner city. A majority of my students are First Nations, Métis and Inuit with other students making up a diverse amount of backgrounds and ethnicities. Working within a culture and community that is not traditionally my own has been an utter privilege and honour. To be given the chance to work with youth who have not found success in traditional school settings has been a great challenge and opportunity to be able to demonstrate to youth that they have the skills, knowledge, and ability to complete their high school education and follow their passions later on in life. In short, I am one lucky and privileged teacher to be able to do what I do.

However, working within Edmonton's inner city community is not without its challenges. I am a firm believer that my role as a teacher is to be present within the community I teach and build relationships with different community partners and individuals. Over the last few years I have come to learn that there can be an unfortunate amount of politics at play between different organizations and individuals working within the inner city. Often times organizations and individuals can have competing ideologies as how to best serve the Edmonton's inner city population in terms of how to empower and improve the living conditions for the folks living there. Unfortunately, these competing ideologies have caused relationships to fracture and organizations to not work with each other even though we all have the same goal of improving the community and life of individuals in inner city Edmonton.

Recently, I have had my name and reputation put through the "political grinder" in the community I work with. At many social gatherings and community events I have been to over the last while I have felt that I am constantly defending my school and the work that I do within it. Now I should clarify that folks are not attacking me, but many have genuine questions about what happens at my school and in my classroom due to the rumours that have been perpetuated by some. This experience has caused me to reflect and question if I am the right teacher for the population I work with. I love my students and the community I work in, but I want to make sure that I am doing the work that both my students and community need me to do.

I may not ever have a direct answer to the above question, but from this point on I want to ensure that I listen to the needs of my students and community before I proceed in any of the work I do. I will hold myself accountable for my work and make a commitment that I will do everything in my power to ensure that my students are receiving the type of education and teachings that will empower them and their communities. In order to do this, I vow to establish stronger relationships and partnerships with community organizations and individuals who can add to the educational experience of my students. Particularly, I hope to partner with Aboriginal organizations and individuals in the community who can engage my youth in cultural teachings as I believe this will immensely add to my students having a greater sense of purpose and confidence in who they are. My school does this from time to time but I particularly wish to add this as part of my classroom curriculum in social studies.

It has been a trying few months at my school and in the community. However, I am thankful for it has caused me to reflect and rethink how I approach teaching and the overall education of my students. In the end, I am fully committed to providing them with the best teaching and education that will empower them as individuals and will contribute to the community spirit in Edmonton's inner city.


Comments

  1. Being a positive and caring adult in their lives is the most important thing you can be for them.

    I started fostering our high-risk youth in May. People have said to me "Wow, you're brave" or "I could never do that" or "Aren't you scared having them in your house?". I'm not surprised, as is with all marginalized groups - the lack of understanding by the general public and the stigma that follow the youth. I love every girl that has stayed with me and the 2 girls with me have even said "We've never met anyone like you and Mark (Cherrington). You guys actually care".

    Relationship building is the key to reaching and empowering these youth and you do an outstanding job as their teacher. I would love to know what connections you create with the Aboriginal organizations as I have one girl who is scared of her 2 year old son growing up with no connection to his Cree heritage.

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    1. Thanks so much for these words and your commitment to improving our world. You definitely demonstrate the best qualities of an excellent citizen!

      I'll keep you posted on any connections I make. Ideally I'd love to find an organization willing to do two workshops a month in my classroom on traditional teachings and cultural practices. I'll let you know what I find!

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