Islands of culture : the experiences of post-secondary Cree language teachers
Baptiste Willett, Velma
This study recognizes that post-secondary Cree language teachers carry expertise in providing relevant teaching strategies for adult learners. Pursuant to this perspective, this study describes current Cree language teaching approaches for adult learners as practiced by selected post-secondary Cree language teachers. The Cree language teachers interviewed in this qualitative study are fluent Cree speakers who possess traditional Cree knowledge and understand the protocol within Cree communities. The findings show that post-secondary Cree language teachers created "islands of culture" in unique cultural settings in the classrooms to teach Cree language to adult learners. The Cree teachers shared their cultural beliefs and values, along with the traditional learning and teaching experiences that they acquired from the circle of family relationships. Also, the academic training in teaching methodologies and in linguistics enhanced their teaching strategies in Cree language pedagogy. The study demonstrates that the self-identities of First Nations' students were enhanced when students learned and acquired the cultural and historical background of nêhiyawêwin or Cree language. When First Nations students developed mutual trust and honesty within their learning contexts in the classroom, they also developed respect and love for their mother tongue. The inquiry shows that post-secondary institutions need to recognize and support Cree language programming to help alleviate the numerous problems experienced by Cree language teachers and by their students at the university level. The study also demonstrates that post-secondary Cree language teachers require professional specialized training to initiate multidimensional teaching strategies, and also to develop learning and teaching contexts using aesthetic arts in Cree language pedagogy. The inquiry recommends that universities initiate guidelines to include Cree more provincially in its programming, and to sponsor special events geared to the promotion of Cree, in order to facilitate "islands of culture" learning and teaching contexts for both Cree language teachers and for post-secondary students.