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Master of Education: Secondary Education Final Projects

Using Wisdom Traditions to Engage and Decolonize a School Community University of Alberta


Author or creator
Trevor Van Someren
Additional contributors
Wisdom Traditions
School Community
Residential Schools
Narrative Autobiography
Type of item
Research Material
Using autobiographical narratives reflecting on personal growth experiences with wisdom traditions, this project examines how a school community can engage with wisdom traditions as a positive method of decolonization. The project reflects on how purposeful leadership is used to embed wisdom traditions into the day to day climate of a school community. It reflects on wisdom traditions including the use of Elders, the use of story, ceremony, and smudging. Some key findings were that since schools played a key role in colonization in particular through the use of residential schools and the denying of First Nations, Metis and Inuit cultural representation within educational institutions. As such educational institutions need to change as opposed to expecting First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people to change. Educational institutions need to reach out to families to invite involvement in their school community in relevant and meaningful ways while honouring traditional protocols when applicable. Further findings indicate that some teachers may be hesitant to teach from a First Nations perspective, and that teachers need to value learning from Elders and wisdom traditions along with their students in order for the learning opportunities to be most effective. In addition, traditional ceremonial practices are an important part of school culture and they need to be viewed as ceremony, not as performative events for student’s entertainment. Ceremony in schools provide an important opportunity for healing and growth for the school and for the surrounding First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities in light of the history of colonization and residential schooling. Involving ceremony in schools also creates powerful learning and leadership opportunities for staff and students to engage with Elders and local government leaders in the planning of the ceremonies as well as in the reflective conversations that could occur during and after the ceremonies with students. This final project focusses on building engagement within a school and speaks about acknowledging and embracing the ethical space that exists between cultures. It focusses on strengthening relationships through the use of wisdom traditions in purposeful ways through leadership. As colonization focussed on the structured denying of relationships between family, language, place ceremony, and culture; decolonization can therefore occur through the purposeful rebuilding of relationships. Overall, the project as a whole seeks to model the use of story as a teaching tool to share the author’s personal growth that occurred as a result of reflecting on his own experiences with wisdom traditions and connecting them to relevant literature and cultural practices.
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Filename: Final Project - Using Wisdom Traditions to Engage and decolonize a school community EDSE 900.docx
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