The Classroom Climate Series is a set of professional development workshops offered once a month through the academic year. Participants gain the skills and confidence to establish a productive and responsive classroom climate for working with Indigenous content and socially contentious issues in the classroom. The series also provides a space to share teaching and research practices and learn about engaging in conversations about place, power, and social location.
The diversity of experiences, both of the participants and the series presenters, has been cited as being one of the key strengths of this program. Past participants and presenters also noted that they appreciated the honesty and integrity of the conversations in each session, where facilitators were “walking the walk” by demonstrating how they pedagogically built in how to have difficult conversations in their classes.
Here’s what some of them had to say:
The nuanced nature of working with Aboriginal people and issues is often difficult to address in a substantive way. I was impressed with the preparation, level of participation and feedback from participants. It opened a space to further our work and it is a model for future discourse on these issues.
– Rick Ouellet, former Aboriginal Student and Community Development Officer (past series presenter)
I believe that fostering productive conversations amongst faculty makes us better able to foster productive conversations in our classrooms with our students. It gives us important background knowledge, confidence in the language and terminology, practices to address sensitive topics, and pedagogical strategies. It gives us a sense, too, that we are not alone: other people in other classrooms are raising similar issues in different disciplinary contexts. One of the main things I have taken away from these sessions is the sense that yes, discussing Aboriginal issues in the classroom can be sensitive and highly charged, but if we do not give our students the space, time, and skills to discuss them there, then when will they have the opportunity? If not here, where?
– Kathryn Grafton, Coordinated Arts Program Co-Chair, Department of English Instructor (faculty participant)
While the focus of the series was the setting of the classroom, through discussions we discovered that the setting includes other spaces on campus. Libraries in particular became a space where the discussions turned as an example of what happens outside of the classroom. I think that it was an excellent opportunity for librarians to engage with faculty in a way that highlights the instruction on the reference desk, and how we face similar challenges with questions related to Aboriginal issues.
– Sarah Dupont, Aboriginal Engagement Librarian, Xwi7xwa Library (staff participant)