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«“Before We Teach It, We Have to Learn It”: Wisconsin Act 31 Compliance within Public Teacher Preparation Programs A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED TO THE ...»

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The findings identified that most of the institutions were in compliance with Act 31 however only 44% of the principals felt that they had a strong program. The top 3 barriers listed by both teachers and principals were limited curriculum and lack of age/grade appropriate material, time and class conflicts, and funding and resources. The most commonly used resources were textbooks, films/videos/film strips, and printed instructional materials. The essential component to these materials is the source. Where are the materials coming from, what perspective are they coming from? Basil Johnston, in Brayboy (2005), states that “the best way to understand ‘Native peoples and their heritage... [is] by examing native ceremonies, rituals, songs, dances, prayers, and stories” (p. 424). Brayboy continues with the idea that in learning through these types of sources every person can understand “the fundamental understandings, insights, and attitudes toward life and human conduct, character, and quality that bind” all human beings (Brayboy, 2005, p. 424). Although teachers reported utilizing more common classroom materials, they also did report utilizing native voices.

According to the survey, 77% of the respondents reported using written material by native authors and another 73% incorporated American Indian speakers. Forty-three of the respondents even reported that they had assistance by American Indians in developing the curriculum. However, the survey does not explain how these sources were used, what the content was, and the length of time spent on American Indian history and culture. In the same question about utilization of materials in their instruction 57% relied on information from the Internet and 53% relied on textbooks. Furthermore, demonstrations of customs, foods or culture were present in 63% of respondents’ schools. Although the numbers appear to do well at incorporating a native perspective, the content within the classroom is not yet defined. In looking at the data even further, it would appear that a generalization of American Indian history and culture is also taking place in classrooms.

Respondents were asked to indicate if information was presented on each tribe or band within Wisconsin separately, combined, or no response. Between 70 and 80% of the respondents indicated that tribes and bands were combined, even though each tribe is unique in their history and culture within Wisconsin.

In addition to understanding people on fundamental, common levels as human beings, it is the duty of every American citizen to understand and learn about native history and culture, “if for no other reason than to understand the rights and relationships that exist between tribal people and U.S. government” (Christensen & Poupart, n.d., p. 1).

A lack of this understanding by the general American population has led to numerous conflicts such as that of the Chippewa Treaty Rights issues that directly led to the creation of Wisconsin Act 31. “[I]t is imperative that citizens understand why First Nations have rights and a status that differs from that of other citizens” (Christensen & Poupart, n.d., p. 1).

Several recommendations also came out of the study including clarification and definitions for Act 31, teacher training, materials, and administration/coordination. In implications for further study were clearly laid out. These included geographic coding of the responses which may lead to identifying inequities across that state, finding out why principals reported that they were not sure if they had a strong program, and specifying resources and appropriateness to the topics covered. In addition, the study could not identify why resources that were widely available were not widely utilized within the classrooms. The biggest implication would be that although the study identifies current practices and resources used, more research would identify methods and resources what would be most beneficial to Act 31 education.

Fixico (1996) clearly articulates the important aspect of the American Indian voice in the researching information on American Indian people. In doing so, it makes one realize the impact that non-native people have on what is written and researched.

Often information has been limited in nature to written accounts, particular theories, and methodologies that have been designed without the American Indian in mind. Doing so severely limits the research. Strengths and/or weaknesses of study design are clearly described: non-Indians have defined the parameters within the field of American Indian history and have limited themselves to written accounts, limited theories, and designed methodologies from non-native traditions.

Along the same lines the author points out that it is important to incorporate the cultural aspects of the people you are studying into the analysis. Language, values, relationships, societal norms, and worldview all impact the representation of American Indian history. Therefore, it is necessary to include this perspective when researching and writing about American Indian people, particularly if you are not native. Unfortunately, more and more individuals who are not native are becoming more interested in the topic thereby necessitating the ethics and responsibilities to be escalated to incorporate these aspects and thoughts into research and writing of American Indian history. Furthermore, going into the educating side of the research, it is even more critical that non-natives put themselves in the shoes of American Indians to understand their perspective and therefore present a more balanced history of America.

Although the author does not provide specific suggestions for the future, he implies that researchers, writers, and educators, as well as future people in these areas, need to be ever so aware of the sensitive material they are covering and understand that some information can and cannot be published. In addition, some material may not be appropriate for an outsider to hear or see and therefore these areas must be respected as well. In understanding the culture and placing oneself in native shoes, a more balanced understanding of American Indian people will develop and then can be passed on to future generations of both native and non-native people.

Teacher materials on American Indians need to be appropriate to not only the content but also the grade level of the students. The perspective of these materials will make a significant impact on the student’s perception and idea of American Indian people. Materials often come from textbooks which rely on history and other historical books for information. Often these books will provide history and culture through the lens of the non-native dominant society and not that of American Indian people.

Resources should come from the voice of the people being represented in order to accurately reflect the history and culture of the people. Teacher demographics will also factor into the incorporation of adequate materials for students. Depending on the training of the teacher will affect the selection as well. Teacher training on the subject of American Indian history and culture was incorporated into Wisconsin Act 31 as well.

“Only 17% of the teachers graduating after 1991 have received training in history, culture, and sovereignty of Wisconsin’s recognized tribes and bands either through part of their college level studies, or through other sources” (University of WisconsinExtension, 2000, p. 8). Therefore those who completed teacher training prior to 1990 would have less training in how to select resources than those who completed training after this time.

Taking into consideration the appropriateness of materials, the perspective of the materials, and the background of the teacher will greatly influence what students will learn with regard to the history and culture of American Indians in Wisconsin. In addition, these factors will play into whether students develop a stereotypical image of American Indian people and continue to perpetuate the stereotypes of American Indians of the past and the present. Without a proper knowledge of the true history of American Indian people and the complex societies in which they live today, controversies such as mascots and casinos are frequently misunderstood along with continuing treaty rights battles. For future educators, it is imperative to not only understand the basis of American Indian history and culture for compliance with standards but also to be able to understand when issues such as mascots are brought into the classroom.

Teacher Preparation “Thanks in large part to our own consistent miseducation, most educators are unable to do more than replicate the teaching of bad history, stereotypes, and myths to which we were so carefully exposed as we colored “Indian designs” on our headbands and fashioned toothpick tipis year after year throughout our educational experience” (Starnes, 2006, p. 186).

Montana. The state of Montana has faced similar issues with their state law Indian Education for All. According to Wendy Zagray Warren (2006), she like other teachers were not concerned about the law as if it was important someone would tell her about it. However, she only understood more once she began investigating on her own.

Warren (2006) discovered that the law was enacted in 1999 and that “all school personnel are also expected to ‘gain an understanding of and appreciation for the American Indian people’” (p. 198). She then began to question why she did not know more about her state’s American Indian history and realized she had learned certain aspects but that the textbooks she learned from “didn’t even hint that is might represent some injustice” (Warren, 2008, p. 198). In order for teachers to properly comply with state standards they themselves need to not only understand how to incorporate the material into the curriculum but first and foremost have accurate and correct knowledge in the content to begin with. Teresa Veltkamp, as stated in Carjuzaa (2009), is an Indian Education for All Implementation Specialist who says “before we teach it, we have to learn it” (p. 38) and emphasizes that this goes for both current educators as well as those who are preparing to become educators. It is vital that educators be properly prepared through their teacher preparation programs to deal with the content and incorporation of the content on American Indians as mandated by state standards. In a survey conducted in 2008, the question was asked “What do you see as your school’s greatest need to effectively implement Indian Education for All?” Two hundred seventy-eight respondents (33%) reported the greatest need was teacher training (Montana Office of Public Instruction, 2008, p. 3). The state of Montana continues to collect data each year regarding teacher understanding, school’s needs for implementation, and a variety of other data to better understand the progress of Indian Education for All. Generally speaking the numbers tend to remain the same in each area, including that of school needs. In the latest version, 2010, 24.8% of respondents reported the greatest need was teacher training (Montana Office of Public Instruction, 2010, p. 4). Although the percentage dropped, overall, the greatest need remains teacher preparation. Carjuzaa (2009) indicates that in college, students wanting to be K-12 classroom teachers enroll in courses in their respective teacher preparation programs, and are introduced to the requirements of IEFA in a limited manner. These teacher candidates graduate and start their new teaching positions with little background knowledge and minimal exposure to culturally responsive instructional strategies. (p. 37) Preparing teachers for culturally responsive teacheing is essential in properly educating future generations. Without appropriate teacher preparation the cycle of stereotypes and misconceptions of different cultures will persist throughout the United States. No matter how inclusive the curriculum and standards are within states, culturally responsive instruction cannot be achieved without proper teacher preparation.

Hawaii. Unlike Montana, Hawaii has a history of incorporating indigenous history and culture into the classroom. Therefore the Department of Education recognizes the role that teachers play in the classroom with regard to indigenous Hawaiian content.

The Department of Education, in 1984, stated that “‘the [classroom] teacher has the most important role in the implementation of the Hawaiian studies program in the classroom’ (1984:vi)” (Kaomea, 2005, p. 35). With this philosophy in place, it would seem that Hawaii’s teachers are fully prepared to integrate Hawaiian history and culture into the curriculum. However, this is not the case. Kaomea (2005) discovered that teachers were “not particularly confident or proud of [their] program” (p. 36). Teachers were not spending as much time as they should teaching Hawaiian studies and were relying on “outdated texts and workbooks” (Kaomea, 2005, p. 36). In an attempt to determine why the Hawaiian studies was a weak program as well as why teachers were not comfortable, one of the difficulties expressed was that of teacher preparation. One participant reported that she never enrolled in a course in Hawaiian studies as a student at the University of Hawai‘i and only vaguely recalled taking a course in Hawaiian history in high school. Through the years she relaxed her concerns about her lack of content knowledge in the subject, developing an independent study approach that allows her to “learn along with the kids. (Kaomea, 2005, p. 36) Unfortunately, the experience of this teacher was not exclusive to this particular school.

Rather other teachers throughout the state were also reporting the same.

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