Incorporating perspectives without being tokenistic

A question from FP in Sydney – “how do teachers incorporate Aboriginal perspectives across all KLAs without it appearing wishy washy or tokenistic

    This is a key question to being an effective teacher. If we image that teaching is both being able to interact with and engage with learner, while at the same time knowing your content area critically,  then having a critical knowledge and understanding of the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander perspectives is fundamental. At the Critical Classroom we believe that teachers are both facilitators of learners and learners themselves.

    So the question really is, how do I (as a learner) increase my knowledge of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander perspectives so that I can facilitate this learning in my students.

    Let’s start with what not to do:

    • Don’t assume you know everything already: you did a few courses at uni, you’ve done some professional development sessions, and you’ve read a few books. That’s great, but there is no way that you can completely know any content area – there is always something to learn. One of the myths that is perpetuated is that Learning Stops at Graduation – it doesn’t. Learning is forever. At this point in time (the moment you’re reading this), one thing is certain, you do not know now all that you will ever need to know in the future.
    • Don’t be afraid to give it a go – don’t be afraid to learn; don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know; don’t be afraid to ask for help; don’t be afraid to omit something altogether until you’re confident.
    • Don’t add images of “boomerangs & didgeridoos” to your worksheet border and assumed that you’ve covered Indigenous perspectives. You haven’t.

    What do can do: Take incidental opportunities for learning

    1. Make your holiday reading Indigenous: are you going away for the holidays? Do you normally take a novel to read? Why not take novels by Indigenous authors? If you’re looking for something lighter – why not take Anita Heiss’s Mr Right and Dreaming books? These four novels will give you an insight into the political ideas of ordinary characters, as well as will expose you to the work and ideas of real-life Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and intellectuals. And if you’re into Australia Women’s Fiction (aka. Chick Lit), then you’ll have a great time. 
    2. Learn while you’re Facebooking – for no cost but time, you can stalk the hundreds of Facebook Pages that are devoted to helping non-Aboriginal people understand and learning about Aboriginal people, community and cultures. 
    3. Learn while you’re Tweeting – Follow @IndigenousX. Started by Koori Educator, @LukeLPearson, IndigenousX stands for IndigenousX. It should probably be IndigenousD (D = Diversity) because each week, another ordinary Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person tweets about their lives and their interests. Just following and engaging with IndigenousX can teach you so much.
    4. Learning while you’re listening to music – are you a music lover? Why not buy some Indigenous Music, listen to the lyrics and share them with your students.
    5. Learn while you’re watching movies – are you going to the video shop to get a video? Rather than a Hollywood Blockbuster, hire out an Indigenous story. You’ll be entertained and learn something at the same time. 
    6. Be a reader of Indigenous journals. The Critical Indigenous Studies Journal is freely available. It’s an international, peer-reviewed journal from the Indigenous Studies Research Network at QUT and has Indigenous writers from all over the world. 

    There is no easy way to become a critical expert in any content area – it requires passion, curiosity, humbleness, patience and resilience. All the characteristics we as educators want our own students to have. We’ve written previously about the investment required to embed new knowledge, and we reiterate it here. If you want to do the best for your students, if you do not want to be tokenistic and superficial, then you have to be an engaged learner who over time “puts the pieces of knowledge together”.