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Thinking about how reciprocity can support Indigenous educators.

The definition of reciprocity is the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit.

I wanted to create a post that talks about reciprocity and how this kind of practice can help support Indigenous educators and IBPOC (Indigenous, Black, People of Colour) educators who are being asked to do so much in the education system. With so much being asked of them all the time, having reciprocity in place to help lighten their load making them able to help and support more often without getting burnt out.

I am going to talk about this from a personal perspective, as an Indigenous person in the colonial education system. As an Indigenous academic, educator, and human, I get asked for my advice on many things all of the time. I am one of very few Indigenous educators, which is challenging when we are in a system that is wanting to know more about Indigenous everything for the classrooms because it was purposefully not taught to anyone in the Canadian education system. Educators today are trying to find ways to learn and bring Indigenous education into their classrooms now. This puts pressure on those who are Indigenous in the system to have to answer questions on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s an easy ask like, do you know how to make Bannock? Or do you hoop dance (the answer is no to this one) or can you tell me where to get some amazing beaded earrings. These are okay to ask and easy enough to answer.

Some questions are more complex, and it can become overwhelming and difficult to navigate. Examples of these kind of questions are, “Can you come in as a guest speaker and teach about _______(fill in the blank with anything Indigenous here). This kind of question is a big ask because it might not be anything that I know about, but people assume that because I am in Indigenous education I will have the answer about all things Indigenous. So it is really important before you send an email with this kind of ask is to look up the person, see what they teach about or talk about and see if it aligns with what you are wanting them to talk about.

It is also very important when you ask a IBPOC to come in and do something for you like teaching your class, taking the time to share resources, or even to teach you, you should be asking yourself what you can do in reciprocity in exchange for this knowledge. As an IBPOC person, we have our regular work we have been hired to do, plus the extra work we get asked to do because we are IBPOC, and then these questions on top of that. Our time is consumed by so much in the colonial system. When you do ask, make an acknowledgement that you understand that the person is very busy and most likely gets asked often to do this work. If the IBPOC person were to say yes to each ask that comes in they would not have the time or space to teach their own classes. This is how often this happens. The reciprocity piece is critical in this work.

Reciprocity does not have to be a monetary transaction, in most cases I personally would be so much happier with someone taking something off my plate in exchange for this work. For the person who is asking, think about how you could support the IBPOC person in the time you are asking them to take away from their work. Could you offer to teach a class of theirs for them? Could you offer to take something off of their plate in compensation for coming into your classroom? The offer is a personal acknowledgement of gratitude for asking IBPOC people to share their time and knowledge with you.

I am not asking you not to ask questions, in fact I encourage you to ask questions. What I would like you to be aware of is what you are asking, and how you will give back. By doing this, you will be supporting the IBPOC people around you. You will be giving them some space to breathe and allowing them to do their work and support your work, without being overwhelmed.

One last thing before I end for today. For those who ask about finding lesson plans and resources, I ask you to first do your homework on the topic you are asking about. Research all that you can about the topic and if you still have questions then reach out and ask. It is hard for IBPOC people to just say oh yeah, I have a lesson plan on everything that I can easily pull up and share. This is not always the case. So if you the person who is asking has done research and has some kind of knowledge about a topic, this will make the process much easier for the person you are asking for information. If you need support in finding authentic resources for your classroom you can check out my other blog posts about this topic or book a presentation:

Thanks for reading today and thinking about you can support IBPOC people in the education system.


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