Interview with an Educator - Kasia Niewiadomski, 5th grade teacher

Interview #2 in the Listen & Learn Teacher's Series is with Kasia Niewiadomski, a 5th grade teacher at Bakersfield Public School. Learning about Indigenous peoples and communities is a mandatory part of the 5th grade curriculum, and Kasia spoke to me about doing her best to go beyond the documents to teach about stereotypes and emphasize the diversity of Nations on Turtle Island. 

My favorite part of our discussion was around the complexities that arise when speaking to ten-year-old children about Residential Schools and other forms of oppression, and the results of her attempts to have the students share their emotions about their learning.

    Kasia also bravely spoke about what happens when we make mistakes as teachers, and how she keeps pushing the boundaries of her teaching. Like many of us, Kasia is grappling with the uncertainty that comes from learning information about Indigenous topics and Canadian history that are new. 

    I'd love to know what you took from my chat with Kasia! Email me with your feedback

    Questions to Consider

    • How can I encourage my students to reflect on their emotional reactions in relation to Indigenous content?
    • What subjects do I feel are not to be covered with my students? Is that about my discomfort or theirs?

    Two Short Documentaries

    Two CBC documentaries caught my eye this month.

    Karihwanoron: Precious Things (14:22).

    This short film focuses on the Mohawk immersion program Karihwanoron located in the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory in Quebec. If you are interested in discussing language preservation with your students, or want to highlight contemporary images of resistance and resilience, this is a great place to start.

    Young students might find the first few minutes which focus on the daily experience of Yagorihwanirats, a young Mohawk child, relatable.  

    Headdress (5:45) by JJ Neepin (Fox Lake Cree Nation) reflects on the importance of the headdress to her ancestors and her identity. Also check out JJ's article Why I made the 'Headdress' for additional commentary and context. 

    If you are teaching about the appropriation of the headdress in contemporary population culture, this documentary could serve as a short but powerful perspective.