Thursday, January 16, 2014

We've Moved!!

Hi folks,

We officially moved houses and are no longer posting at this blog.

If you would like to subscribe to The Critical Classroom,  go straight to

Thanks for subscribing, hope to see you at our new place.

Cheers, Leesa

Saturday, July 27, 2013

World Heritage Rock in Sameland.

The Samediggi and Alta Museum invited delegates to a seminar on Sami cultural heritage and place names in the break on Tuesday.

I had the privilege of listening to Audhild Schanche a senior adviser at the Samediggi. Her lecture was ti tled 'The past is present: Sami cultural heritage and landscape'. Audhild placed us in Sapmi - Sameland. Giving us visitors a glimpse into Sami family lifestyle and sites of significance. Showing images of Fossil Beach at Ceavccageadgi (Mortensnes) and pit houses from 1000BC.

This was followed by a lecture on Sami place names and the struggle for recognition.

Article 100a of the Constitution: 'It is the responsibility of the authorities of the State to create conditions enabling the Sam people to preserve and develop their language, culture and way of life'.

Alta has the largest concentration of rock art in Northern Europe made by Sami people. After the speakers, the people who braved the cold and rain where able to partake in a guided tour to see the artwork up close. The work has been highlighted by archealogists with a orange/redish ochre paint (believed to be close to the original colour), this practice has now stopped. The rock art is believed to be approximately 7,000 years old. The entire area is now on the UNESCO'S World Heritage list.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

News for The Critical Classroom

Over the next few weeks, The Critical Classroom will be moving to a new home. This old site will remain, but eventually, we won't be posting any new posts here. 

We can't leave though without saying a huge thank you to Blogger (and the Blogger community). If you're ever interested in starting a blog on any topic, I thoroughly recommend this platform. It's simple to use, and there is no maintenance except adding your own design flare and your content.

Will update again soon.

Cheers, Leesa

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Leadership is not COMMAND and CONTROL ....

I've talked before about Sir Ken Robinson, particularly on our Facebook Page. Sir Ken has written and presented extensively about education. If you haven't heard him speak before, you must watch Do schools kill creativity? and Changing education paradigms.

The themes of these two presentation above feature in this next presentation (below). Because I know these two presentations so well, I kind of zoned out a bit, but at 15 minutes, I snapped to attention.

Listen for the Death Valley metaphor ....

There are three types of people in the world - those who are immovable, those who are movable, and people who move.

I've captured the text below for you.... 
There are conditions under which people thrive. And conditions under which they don't. We are after all, organic creatures. And the culture of the school is absolutely essential. Culture is an organic term isn't it? 
Not far from where I live is a place called Death Valley.  Death Valley is the hottest, driest place in America and nothing grows there. Nothing grows there, because it doesn't rain. Hence Death Valley. In the winter of 2004, it rained in Death Valley. Seven inches of rain fell over a very short period. And in the sprint of 2005 there was a phenomenon, the whole floor of Death Valley was carpeted in flowers, for a while.  
What is proved is this - that Death Valley isn't dead. It's dormant. What's right beneath the surface are these seeds of possibility waiting for the right conditions to come about. And with organic systems, if the conditions are right, life is inevitable. It happens all the time. 
--- the real role of leadership is not command and control, it's climate control.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A World Indigenous University (WINU)

In our break yesterday I was able to attend a workshop at Sami allaskuvla Sami University College titled 'The World Indigenous Nations University - Indigenous capacity building'. Professor Boni Robertson and Jan Henry Keskitalo walked us through the journey that started in 2012 of trying to establish a World Indigenous Nations University.

The World Indigenous Nations University (WINU) was proposed in 2011 at the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC) Executive Board general meeting in Cusco, Peru and approved for establishment at the 2012 WINHEC Executive Board meeting in Hualien, Taiwan.

WINU seeks to build knowledge, understanding and skill for Indigenous Peoples across the world from our sovereignty and knowledge systems. It aims to address the challenges faced by Indigenous peoples across the globe by providing access to a system if higher education that is culturally and professionally appropriate and is aligned with a strong commitment to advancing Indigenous people through education.

WINHEC seeks to establish a global Indigenous university which privileges and promotes Indigenous knowledges, Indigenous leadership and pedagogical framework in the spirit of the sovereign rights of Indigenous peoples to their own education systems. To develop and sustain Indigenous leaders and professionals who are scholarly, culturally astute and practiced in fields relevant to and specific to Indigenous knowledge and leadership.

It will be interesting and exciting to watch this initiative over time.

Pic: Sorry for the grainy pic.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Children from all over the world be creative

Approximately 800 children and young people from 7 Indigenous regions from Finnmark Country and France were invited to submit a picture of their dream home/lodge.

The images, as you can see above, are displayed on a Jielli (Northern Sami), which is a structure for drying fish.

This work inspires me. I love how children express their ideas. They're straight forward and simple, uncluttered by "politics". 

Classroom Idea:
I'm thinking about how I could develop this activity for when I return to Sydney. Drawing on the idea of the "fish", we could explore fish nets and fish traps, creating a similar structure using found wood and string or light wire. We could build a "display" structure. And rather than a dream home or lodge, I might ask students to draw their perfect meeting place. 

Will continue to explore this activity more when I return, and update this post later. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Preparatory Meeting for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples 2013

Our team member, Lisa M Buxton travelled to Norway this week to attend the Global Indigenous Preparatory Conference for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (to be held in New York, Sep 22-23, 2014) . The event is being hosted by the Sami Parliament and is being held in Alta, Norway.

Technology permitting, Lisa will be sharing posts with us along the way. 

If you would like to know more about the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples Conference you can visit the following sites - 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The 21st of March is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

This date was chosen as it is the anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa. Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations states:
Each year we mark this Day on the anniversary of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre. We can never forget the 69 unarmed and peaceful demonstrators who were killed by South African police as they protested the country’s unjust apartheid laws. Apartheid has long since been dismantled and there have been other important advances in the struggle against racism. These include treaties and declarations, the development of an international framework to combat racism, and national protection systems by numerous States. Despite much progress, racism remains a pervasive menace to individuals and ethnic and religious groups worldwide. It is a threat to stability and a grave violation of human rights. We must join forces to end racism, and sport can help reach this goal. On this International Day, let us recommit to ending racial discrimination and realizing our vision of justice, equality and freedom from fear for all.
It is my personal experience that Australian's do not have a sophisticated understanding nor an ability to identify, talk about and/or critically reflect on their own racism - individual, institutional and systemic. "I'm not racist" is frequently heard in the media as a defence. I would argue that probably all of us are racist to some degree or another. It doesn't make it okay of course. But it does mean that when you attempt to defend yourself with "I'm not racist", you look, sound and probably are being absurd, and un-productive. It takes a long time to grapple with one's own racism - to be able to self-identify it, to challenge it. It's an ongoing journey of reflection and personal challenge.

Here are some links that may assist you on your journey to better understanding racism -
  • All Together Now - is a not-for-profit foundation set up to directly challenge and combat racism in Australia
  • It Stops With me - campaign to challenge racism from the Human Rights Commission
  • Racism: No Way - education campaign to challenge racism from NSW Government, Department of Education and Training
It's good to also share individual experiences of racism, so I've "mined" the Deadly Bloggers list for some personal reflections on racism -
I'll end with this poem by the very very deadly Murri poet Steven Oliver....

In Australia, other commemorations are also held on the 21st of March. These include Harmony Day and Closing The Gap.

If you know of any other deadly posts on racism, let me know so I can add update the list above ...

Cheers, Leesa

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

WYP: Incorporating perspectives

A question from FP in Sydney - "how do teachers incorporate Aboriginal perspectives across all KLAs without it appearing wishy washy or tokenistic"
This is a key question to being an effective teacher. If we image that teaching is both being able to interact with and engage with learner, while at the same time knowing your content area critically,  then having a critical knowledge and understanding of the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander perspectives is fundamental. At the Critical Classroom we believe that teachers are both facilitators of learners and learners themselves.

So the question really is, how do I (as a learner) increase my knowledge of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander perspectives so that I can facilitate this learning in my students.

Let's start with what not to do:

  • Don't assume you know everything already: you did a few courses at uni, you've done some professional development sessions, and you've read a few books. That's great, but there is no way that you can completely know any content area - there is always something to learn. One of the myths that is perpetuated is that Learning Stops at Graduation - it doesn't. Learning is forever. At this point in time (the moment you're reading this), one thing is certain, you do not know now all that you will ever need to know in the future.
  • Don't be afraid to give it a go - don't be afraid to learn; don't be afraid to admit you don't know; don't be afraid to ask for help; don't be afraid to omit something altogether until you're confident.
  • Don't add images of "boomerangs & didgeridoos" to your worksheet border and assumed that you've covered Indigenous perspectives. You haven't.
What do can do: Take incidental opportunities for learning -

  1. Make your holiday reading Indigenous: are you going away for the holidays? Do you normally take a novel to read? Why not take novels by Indigenous authors? If you're looking for something lighter - why not take Anita Heiss's Mr Right and Dreaming books? These four novels will give you an insight into the political ideas of ordinary characters, as well as will expose you to the work and ideas of real-life Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and intellectuals. And if you're into Australia Women's Fiction (aka. Chick Lit), then you'll have a great time. 
  2. Learn while you're Facebooking - for no cost but time, you can stalk the hundreds of Facebook Pages that are devoted to helping non-Aboriginal people understand and learning about Aboriginal people, community and cultures. 
  3. Learn while you're Tweeting - Follow @IndigenousX. Started by Koori Educator, @LukeLPearson, IndigenousX stands for IndigenousX. It should probably be IndigenousD (D = Diversity) because each week, another ordinary Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person tweets about their lives and their interests. Just following and engaging with IndigenousX can teach you so much.
  4. Learning while you're listening to music - are you a music lover? Why not buy some Indigenous Music, listen to the lyrics and share them with your students.
  5. Learn while you're watching movies - are you going to the video shop to get a video? Rather than a Hollywood Blockbuster, hire out an Indigenous story. You'll be entertained and learn something at the same time. 
  6. Be a reader of Indigenous journals. The Critical Indigenous Studies Journal is freely available. It's an international, peer-reviewed journal from the Indigenous Studies Research Network at QUT and has Indigenous writers from all over the world. 

There is no easy way to become a critical expert in any content area - it requires passion, curiosity, humbleness, patience and resilience. All the characteristics we as educators want our own students to have. We've written previously about the investment required to embed new knowledge, and we reiterate it here. If you want to do the best for your students, if you do not want to be tokenistic and superficial, then you have to be an engaged learner who over time "puts the pieces of knowledge together".

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Trevor Nickolls - Dreamtime to Machinetime

Image of From Dreamtime 2 Machinetime (1979) by Trevor Nickolls at 
QAG|GOMA in Brisbane, 2013

This week Aboriginal artist Trevor Nickolls passed away. Most Australians are not aware of this work of Mr Nickolls, and the way he paved a path of possibility for those artists whose work we value and respect so much today.

Take some time out of your week to learn more about his work. Here are some links -

You can also use Google images to see more of his work.

Trevor Nickolls said of his 1979 work:
My life revolves around painting and drawing. I incorporate Aboriginal and Western techniques and symbolism to make contemporary art that relates to both cultures today. My paintings are to share with everyone. I look to bridge the gap between Western art and Aboriginal art. My work is a balancing act, like walking a tightrope between my dreams and my life when I'm awake - from Dreamtime to Machinetime.

Source of quote: Interpretive Panels at QAG|GOMA 14 June 2013.

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