Our school includes home and community in conversations about post-secondary plans. We avoid labeling student and family behavior in the context of our own beliefs or school experiences. We are aware of cultural differences and recognize strengths. We know how to help students explore and identify ways in which their family and/or cultural supports can benefit them.
It is common to hear educators make judgement statements about students and families. Label assume that the lack of Western culture behavior is a deficit or communicates something negative.
Adults in the building typically avoid making assumptions or judgements about students and families.
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Adults in the building are curious about students’ background and cultural experiences. When parents or student’s behavior does not fit within an adult’s expectation, they explore with questions and respect. Adults help students explore and identify colleges that align with their home and culturally support needs
Have you ever heard an Alaskan Educator say "these parents just don't value education"? This is typically an indication of the miscues that easily happen between school and homes. Many educators view "education" through the lens of their own school experience. It can be easy to assume families do not care about education if they do not approach school in the way the educator expects. Stepping back and understanding that education is much broader than what happens in school may help educators avoid that deficit assumption. For years, Indigenous communities had their own, very successful, ways of educating their own people. Today, many families want their children to benefit from both an Indigenous education and a Western education. It is not helpful to frame Indigenous and Western education in conflict or as an either-or. An educator may need to work at learning to understand the expressed values for education that are not simply school-based.
Additionally, in the process of post-secondary planning, educators may need to step back and help students navigate the values and priorities of their families in choosing a path and college. For instance, staying close to home might be more important than attending a prestigious college. Some students may even want to consider part-time enrollment to work around other family events or subsistence needs.
Here are some things an educator can consider:
If a student is missing school for a subsistence activity or family gathering, it may be an expression of the importance of learning from those activities and not a dis-importance to school
Parents may want their child to succeed in school, but may not know the more Western ways of supporting that education.
Some Indigenous families may expect their child to take the lead in their own future planning as more of a support
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The McDowell Group (2001) directly explored attitudes of Alaska Natives toward education and found significant support and aspirations. Okagaki et al. (2009) surveyed American Indian students and compared their answers to European American students; there was no difference in the reported value of education by the students and they equally described support from their parents for pursuing higher education (Okagaki et al. 2001).
The family may be very supportive of college, but lacks the experience needed to guide the AI/AN student through the system. Okagaki et al. (2009) describes a cultural tendency in AI/AE families in which parents allow their child to take the lead in pursuing post-secondary goals, the parents fully support their child’s motivation and view their role as one of support, rather than direction.