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First Nations parent involvement in the public school system : the personal journey of a school principal Pearson, Christina Joanne

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to determine what factors are needed to guide the practice of non-Native educators to build a positive working relationship between a First Nations community and an elementary public school as well as encourage and support parent involvement. An elementary school in Powell River, British Columbia and the local First Nation were purported to have a good working relationship that had resulted in increased parent involvement. I wanted to determine what factors were contributing to the good relationship, and how these factors could be used in other settings to improve First Nations parent involvement. I conducted a qualitative case study of James Thomson elementary school, and Sliammon First Nation. The research methods included semi-structured interviews, group meetings and an examination of planning documents. A First Nations committee was formed, the Ho ho jo thot group, that became my guide and conscience throughout the study. Through narrative writing I experienced a personal journey of reflexive thought about my own relationship to First Nations people. The findings of this research clearly indicated that James Thomson Elementary and the Sliammon First Nation, had a good relationship that was based on four factors: making an effort; knowing the people; being welcoming, and being respectful. The research also indicated there was increased First Nations parent involvement but not as much as educators and parents wanted. When asked what discouraged involvement, the parents and educators identified the barriers to be: history; economics; racism; lack of skills; lack of school support, and traditional differences. When asked what factors they believed would increase parent involvement they said: personal contact by staff; family networks; non-threatening activities; teachers being more 'aware', and a school plan. What this study has contributed to the literature is in both theory and practice. First, it contributes a respectful process for a non-Native person to work with a First Nations community. The Ho ho jo thot group, was my guide and conscience who gave me advice and approval at each stage of the study. Second, this study provides new ways of thinking about involving First Nations parents in the public school system that causes educators to have personal insights and philosophical thoughts instead of 'techniques.' Finally, this study contributes a Handbook to be used by public school educators to improve First Nations parent involvement, that is based on a framework of understanding Aboriginal knowledge, having personal critical awareness, and working with purposefulness.

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