Janna Garrett is going to be teaching grade 8 in Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug starting in September 2018. She completed a concurrent Bachelor of Education and Honours Bachelor of Arts in English Studies at Nipissing University. She is originally from Penetanguishene, ON.
Aanin, boozhoo, wacheyah!
I would like to open my first post in a good way, so let me introduce myself. My name is Janna Garrett and I am a proud Métis woman preparing to teach grade 8 in Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug this September. One of the ways Teach For Canada is supporting my transition to the North is through its Summer Enrichment Program. The 2018 cohort of teachers has been through a whirlwind first week of circles, workshops, and discussions, but there was one presentation in particular that got me thinking more about my role as a new teacher in a First Nation.
My peers and I were honoured by a visit from Dr. Niigaan Sinclair, who shared five gifts rooted in Anishinaabe principles to carry with us on our journeys. One gift shared with us is the idea that teaching is “an endeavour of gift-giving.” In the same way an offering of asemaa (tobacco) lays the foundation for a shared relationship, the relationship between a teacher, their students, and their community is built by the giving and receiving of various gifts.
After learning more about historical trauma and contemporary First Nations issues, I now realize how great a gift it is to be invited into a community. It is a gift charged with caution stemming from past broken promises and relationships, but it is also a gift charged with the hope that this new relationship will be different. Due to the complicated history Indigenous Nations have with the schooling system, I do not expect that my presence will be embraced overnight. Rather, my relationships with community members will require the ongoing gifts of commitment and connection. I plan on taking Niigaan’s advice to “walk with care and walk with humility” as I enter into my new role. And maybe, given time, there will be greater gifts to be shared in our connected future.