maple leaf 8-12. How Do I Show Students/Parents I Care?

1. Native parents usually wait until you, as a teacher, show, through actions and words that you care for their child. They do not automatically assume you care. It thus becomes the responsibility of the school to show they care for the children, before you can expect positive support from most Native parents. Suspensions send the exact opposite message, that the school does not care.

2. Extra-curricular activities is by far the best way to show you care. Most Native parents won't come and say thanks, but when you talk to them, they begin to open up. This is an excellent time to teach students about respect, responsibility, sportsmanship, etc.

3. Meeting parents on the street and telling them positive things about their children is another positive way to show you care.

4. Attend funerals. Funerals are social events as well as grieving events. Check to see if donations are being collected. Donations vary. Give more to someone you personally know well {amounts vary so check around, often $20 is a minimum and $50 is not uncommon.} Attending funerals helps show you care about people. Check on all the local protocols. For example, in some places it is wrong to attend funerals when you're pregnant. It also may be culturally inappropriate to bring children. Both of the above examples may have to do with the belief that the young are vulnerable to spirits. If you are having major problems with the family, think hard before attending. It's also important to go to the house where the family is having company. Bring some baked goods/etc. and leaving it is also respectful. Helping clean up is also a sign of respect and caring. Please talk to several of the local First Nations workers/etc. for more information that is applicable in the region you are living in. Customs vary. Please respect the local customs.

5. Attend community functions that are First Nations oriented/organized. Volunteer to help with the cooking, cleaning, etc. In other words, enjoy the local First Nations community.

6. When possible, and applicable, attend meetings where important local social issues are being discussed. Participate in a respectful manner.

7. When you must discipline a child, do it with First Nations dignity, where everyone, especially the child, preserves their dignity.

8. On special days, invite parents to come to your class. Verbal invitations to individual people are way more personal, and effective, than class notes home.

9. The most difficult thing for most non-First Nations teachers to do seems to visit the homes of First Nations students. You must come to terms with this issue. I find when I visit homes, I usually have something positive to say about the student. If there's a problem with the student and I visit, I will still say something positive and then mention that there's a problem but the two of us are working on it. I usually don't go into detail. Sometime I do...

10. During parent-teacher interviews, give way more positives about a child then negatives. Show the parents the specialness of their child. If there are problems, tell the parents what you are doing to help, what the student is doing, and how they can be involved. If there is a problem, the parents SHOULD be notified before formal report cards/etc. Invite participation from the parents by asking how they deal with the student, what works/doesn't/etc.

11. Field-trips of more than one day are excellent to build rapport with the students, and indirectly with the parents. Students talk both positively, and negatively, about their teachers. Parents hear and often make judgments.

12. Invite people to your home for dinner, to go hunting, etc.

13. Do culturally relevant activities both in the classroom and out of school. First Nations people enjoy people who recognize their culture as important. Involve others in the projects if necessary. Most teachers are afraid the might "do something wrong." Most First Nations people would rather a person make a mistake, apologize, and learn from it, rather than do nothing. To be safe, check with a few First Nations people in the community before starting to ensure you are going in the right direction. Even doing this, sometimes one makes mistakes.

14. When you do the above types of activities, parents and students know you care. Just saying you care doesn't work in dysfunctional homes. Why? Because if both parents are alcoholic, they are constantly saying to their children, "I love you." But when the urge to drink comes, the child becomes second to the powerful urge of alcohol. When the parents sober up, they feel guilty and proceed to give the child things to make up for their guilt. The child learns, over time, that alcohol is more important then they are. So when a teacher says, "I care", the child does not trust what is said, and flips into a pattern of operations that they have been conditioned to.

15. These strategies are not exhaustive. They are included as ideas to consider.

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