Staffing the Kiskinwahamâtowikamik

Staffing the Kiskinwahamâtowikamik: What educational leaders in five First Nations communities look for when hiring for "fit"
Speaker: Jerome Cranston # University of Manitoba
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Date and Time
21st Mar 2013 17:00 - 21st Mar 2013 18:30
Seminar Room 1, Chrystal Macmillan Building

This lecture reports on the preliminary findings of a two-year, qualitative research study that explored the decision-making processes used by the Directors of Education of five First Nations Educational Authorities in Manitoba when assessing prospective teachers for “fit” for both their schools (in Cree, Kiskinwahamâtowikamik) and their local communities.

Richards (2008, n.p.) states that: “The gap in education levels between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals is one of the great social policy challenges facing Canada.” Furthermore, Cappon (2008, p. 60) asserts that First Nations students face “persistent barriers that hinder their opportunities for learning, barriers that far exceed those facing non-Aboriginal Canadians,” and these may include not having teachers who are adequately prepared for and capable of educating First Nations students.


Highlighting the critical roles teachers play in the lives of First Nations students Anderson, Horton and Orwick (2004, p. 2) state: “A relevant First Nations education system has the mandate and personnel to provide the curriculum, resources and professional development opportunities for all teachers of First Nations on-reserve students. This system will maintain and support current teachers and educate and recruit new teachers that are committed to Indigenous communities”. However, Anderson et al., (2004) also suggest that trying to attract and retain teachers who understand First Nations history, culture, intellectual traditions, languages, and also comprehend First Nations’ relationships with the land and creation is no easy challenge to meet.


In fact, Kavanagh (2000, p. 2) contends that First Nations schools “are presented with numerous challenges in terms of attracting and retaining qualified staff.” These challenges include the limited funding the schools receive from the federal government, which in turn limits their abilities to offer compensation – wages, benefits, and pensions – at comparable levels to neighbouring public school districts. In addition, many teachers work without the protection of a collective agreement, or under limited ones, and do not belong to a professional union. Due to these pressures and the isolation of some First Nation communities, many schools experience high staff turnover rates (Kavanagh, 2000; Wotherspoon, 2009).


Thus, given the importance of teachers to the success of First Nations students and the pressures to attract and retain them, a key question remains largely unanswered: How are teachers selected for First Nations schools? Understanding the processes of how individuals are selected for teaching positions in First Nations schools should be a matter of import not only to those involved in hiring decisions, but also to those concerned with the success of First Nations students.


Research demonstrates, over and over again, that of those variables potentially open to policy influence, the decision of "who is allowed to teach" is the most important factor in the learning of students. However, the hiring process is one of the most overlooked areas of educational administration research. Even with the focus on teacher quality, relatively little research exists on First Nations schools’ practices to screen and select prospective teachers. This study takes an initial step towards filling this gap by documenting teacher screening and selection practices in some of Manitoba’s First Nations schools.