This week at Onondaga I concentrated on getting to know the teachers that work for the after school program. The students were not in the gymnasium much this week because of having extra work since they had a nice 5 day break.
One of the teachers that really opened my mind was Sue. She is a retired teacher from Onondaga Nation School and is also a non-native of the territory. We spoke a lot about her experiences as a non-native of the territory, and how it affected her as a teacher. She told me that most of the issues she encountered were from parents and other teachers that are natives of Onondaga Nation. The students were always very accepting of her, but it seemed as if once they hit a certain age they changed. I could understand this because I never felt as if the students really were judging me. It was always a few little misunderstandings that never affected their respect for me as a teacher or affected how I taught them. This teacher told me even now in the after school program, the one women who works with us who is a native never really seems to speak with the rest of the adults. She always goes towards the students or the staff in the building that are Natives. It was interesting for me to hear because I did not notice it before she had pointed it out. Sue began to explain that this teacher never says hi to anyone or thanks any of us for our help, etc. It is always the minimum amount of interaction. I never noticed this because I am normally in the gymnasium and most of the teachers just sit next to each other on the side while I keep track of the game being played.
Sue continued to explain to me that parents always gave her a hard time as well. Whenever a student was not meeting expectations in her classroom some parents would make excuses saying that it is because she does not understand the culture, and their kids should not respect her classroom. I could not believe this when she told me. To me, what does the difference in culture have to do with the student not paying attention to learn how to do a simple math equation? I would better understand this even if she was teaching religion or a class about Onondaga culture, but she was a classroom teacher that did not teach culture to the students.
Sue has really opened my eyes to a few different things that could be possible situations for me as a teacher. I will never know what parents are going to say when their student is not exceeding in a unit, and many parents will try to blame me. I have to understand that because the parents say it, it does not mean it is always true, unless I am not doing my job. In any school I have to understand that not all people I am around will accept me, whether it because of culture or I am new or some other reason, but that is okay.