Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

Mentored High Expectations as a Praxis of Empowerment

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

Mentored High Expectations as a Praxis of Empowerment

Article excerpt


This article will explore the reasons why all teachers must mentor high expectations for students. The key reason, under which all the other reasons cluster, is that high expectations, and the mentoring of students to meet them, increase the students' self-confidence and their belief in themselves as capable and intelligent people. That belief in their own ability empowers them to embrace ever increasing challenges, whether personal or professional. They become active players in the creation of their own lives, and are able to embrace future challenges. Along with the positive reasons for mentored high expectations, I will provide suggestions for how we might sustain those expectations. I will also elaborate the very negative ramifications of a praxis of lowered expectations, a praxis that I regard as a blatant form of discrimination and colonization. It is this praxis of lowered expectations that has become an endemic approach to education, particularly with Aboriginal students, and it is for that reason that I speak in this forum.


Cet article expliquera pourquoi tous les enseignants doivent cultiver des attentes élevées pour leurs élèves. La raison centrale, d'où découlent toutes les autres, est la suivante: Ces attentes élevées, et permettre que les élèves comblent lesdites attentes, font augmenter leur confiance en soi et le fait de se croire capables et intelligents. Cette croyance, à son tour, facilite la résolution de défis toujours plus durs. Ils en viennent à maîtriser leurs propres vies et peuvent relever de futurs défis. J'offrirai des suggestions afin de montrer non seulement comment nous pouvons cultiver ces attentes, mais encore pourquoi il importe justement de les cultiver. J'explorerai aussi les conséquences néfastes d'une philosophie où l'on attend peu des élèves, philosophie constituant à mes yeux une forme flagrante de colonisation et de discrimination. Il s'agit là d'une philosophie très courante en éducation, surtout en milieu autochtone, et voilà pourquoi je parle dans ce forum.


Over the years, in my role as a university professor in a Faculty of Education, I have become an outlier, judged as working outside of and in opposition to the organizational culture. While there may be many reasons for that-I have not conducted formal interviews with colleagues - I do know that one of the primary reasons is my insistence on high expectations, both of myself and of students, and my mentoring work with students (as well as myself) toward meeting those expectations. While I am outspoken in my beliefs-and that is generally not well received if one's beliefs are outside of those of the majority - a factor also at play is that universities, mirroring a capitalist society, habitually slide into norm referencing. Whether with regards to our own work, or the work we ask of students, norm referencing results in comparisons, perhaps even classic prisoner dilemma situations that serve no one well and often cause resentment among colleagues. Additionally, I harbor my own resentment of the deep disservice done to students by those colleagues with low expectations, often accompanied by the use of inflated marks. I may also be simply dismissed as the "old school" English teacher that insists on every "t" being crossed and every "i" dotted, that I am really nothing more than a copyeditor. While there are grains of truth in that dismissive attitude, there are deeper reasons for my belief in mentored high expectations. Those reasons connect to my autobiography.

I am the youngest child in a family of four children, all of whom, except for me, have passed (sister at IV2, younger brother at 24, and older brother at 44), along with my father (who passed at 61) and my mother (who passed at 90). My growing-up experience was defined by the hard work of a farm family, with a particularly driven father, and by family illness, including that of my father. As a relatively healthy child, any issues that I had were, understandably, relegated to the background. …

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