I taught in Northern Ontario on a First Nation Reservation. It was pretty much at the top of the map of Ontario. There were no roads into this community. The only way to get there was to fly on a little charter plane and land on a dirt runway. In the winter, you could drive over the frozen lake when the winter road was open. It certainly was a brand new experience for me.
The isolation was really something. Without the distractions of city life, I found the time to write the novels I had always wanted to. With one title under my belt, I kicked around some ideas for my next work of fiction.
I was walking home with the principal one day and I told him of my idea for my next story. He seemed indifferent to what I thought was an amazing story idea. And then he said something that really inspired me. He said that the kids up here really needed to see themselves in more stories.
Something clicked in me when he said that. Almost immediately I began work on a young adult novel set on a fictional reserve much like the one I was living in. When I was finished the story, I read it to my class and they thoroughly enjoyed it.
I hadn’t thought much about the characters and settings in the books I chose to share with my class prior to that. Now, I am very conscious of choosing stories and making books available where my students can see themselves reflected in the work.
I have always seen myself in popular culture I am only now beginning to understand my white privilege. There isn’t a lot I can do about that, other than call attention to it, and embrace other cultures as much as possible.
I am enthusiastic about sharing works of other cultures. I would also like to do this in very subtle ways if I ever happen to run a library. I would feature books, articles, comics, and online resources that reflect the heritage of my students. I would place these in open sight and let the works speak for themselves.
Teaching Tip Tuesday – The Third Tuesday of every month!