Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice
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The stress and anxiety of new teachers is a pervasive problem that impacts upon teacher preparation and retention. Although new mainstream teacher concerns and experiences have been readily discussed in the literature, the same attention has not been invested for new Aboriginal teachers. In Ontario, Canada, in excess of 60% of the Aboriginal population live off-reserve and reside in urban communities. Well over 50,000 Aboriginal students attend publicly funded kindergarten to Grade 12 schools that are governed by the Ontario Ministry of Education. There is a growing socio-political awareness that Aboriginal epistemologies are distinct from colonial paradigms, and that Aboriginal knowledge has been dismally underrepresented in Ontario schools. The intent of the Ministry of Education’s creation of the Ontario Aboriginal Education Office (2007) is to remedy the chronic shortage of Aboriginal teachers and in the process offer professional support to new teachers as an incentive to keep them in the profession. It has been suggested that teaching Aboriginal languages and sociohistorical values to Aboriginal students is integral to their self-identity as Aboriginal peoples. The purpose of this research was to examine new Aboriginal teachers’ thoughts and experiences during their induction into the profession and to articulate a descriptive theory of these perceptions. This grounded theory study employed a volunteer and purposive sampling that included six new Aboriginal teacher participants. Analysis of the data resulted in a grounded theory of participants’ experiences that were rooted in the cultural attributions of Medicine Wheel Teachings. The three categories grounded in the data include ‘sense of vulnerability’, ‘commitment to students’, and ‘identity formation’. These represent the first stage of participants’ reflections as novice teachers. In the subsequent stage, identified as ‘Introspective analysis,’ participants’ innate beliefs and traditional values were embedded in healing and spirituality. The paper discusses how the grounded theory saturated the categories and properties of the two developmental stages and represented a means of new Aboriginal teachers’ sense of experience in a culturally responsive context.