Navigating the Tensions: Decolonizing Work with the Parents in a Rural Alberta School: An Autoethnographic Account

  • Author / Creator
    Tkachuk, Tammy Lynn
  • In the fall of 2016 I began working at a small elementary school in rural Alberta. As both the principal and a teacher in the school, I set about making changes designed to meet the Calls to Action of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission while also opening up our classrooms to Indigenous knowledge inclusion. Very shortly after beginning this decolonizing and Indigenizing work, I encountered parental opposition to the changes I was beginning to introduce. Parents questioned the need for teaching and learning about treaties and residential schools. They wondered why a treaty acknowledgement statement had become a part of our public gatherings. They questioned the cross-cultural links I was trying to establish, and the Indigenous knowledge that was being included in instruction. My initial response to the parent community was to cite policies and to point to proposed changes in curriculum as a justification for the work being done. As further discussions with parents would reveal, something more was needed. Parents needed, and asked for, education about changing Indigenous - Settler relations and the decolonizing and Indigenizing work taking place in our school. Parents wanted to learn more.

    Drawing on the work of Tully (2008), Veracini (2010), and Lowman & Barker (2015), I began exploring Settler Colonial Theory as a lens through which to understand and reimagine Indigenous – Settler relations in Canada. This theoretical framework helped me to understand the narratives, processes and policies that shape Canada as a Settler society. It also opened up avenues for conversation and dialogue with my parent community, providing a framework through which to begin the hard work of decolonizing hearts and minds. It furnished me with a tool for questioning those underlying assumptions about others and ourselves.

    As I worked with parents to address the questions, tensions and considerations that emerged, my research methodology and questions fell into place. I decided upon autoethnography as my research methodology. This method allowed me to focus on my own experiences as I navigated the tensions associated with living, teaching, and leading in my rural Alberta context. It allowed me to tell my story of doing this work complete with self-doubts, challenges, failings and successes. Autoethnography let me share my story, particular to my context, but more universal in its challenges and themes. Using autoethnography as my methodology, I took up the following questions: 1) In a cultural context of bewilderment, doubt, and even hostility, what questions, tensions and considerations emerge for a non-Indigenous administrator, teacher, and community member working to create a better parent understanding of the decolonizing and Indigenizing work being done within a small, rural elementary school? 2) What questions, tensions and considerations arise for parents as changes happening within the school? 3) How can a teacher/administrator help guide parents through the tensions and questions that arise? and 4) How do I, as a non-Indigenous administrator, teacher, and community member, navigate the tensions and questions that arise both on a personal and professional level?

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.