Students in a classroom setting putting their hands up to answer a question.

Creating Cultural Safety in the Classroom

Maintaining cultural safety in the classroom requires educators to recognize the unequal power distribution at all levels: individual, institutional, family and society. Creating cultural safety enables learners to feel “that their unique cultural background is respected, and they are free to be themselves without being judged, put on the spot, or asked to speak for all members of the group” (Pulling Together Guide for Curriculum Developers, Section 5).

A trauma-informed approach to facilitating classroom discussion calls on educators to be mindful of the tragic and painful histories and ongoing intergenerational trauma impacting Indigenous students and other students who have experienced traumatic events. As we contemplate reconciliation across communities, our learning spaces also require careful consideration.

Re-traumatization and racism can take place in the classroom when there is:

  • Denial of racism or rejection of colonial violence on Indigenous Peoples and other groups
  • Asserting that residential schools are a notion of the past without ongoing reverberations through intergenerational trauma
  • Singling out Indigenous students to educate others by asking them to share personal, family or community experiences related to residential schools, reconciliation, Indigenous traditions, etc.
  • Expecting Indigenous students to know about all Indigenous Peoples across the country
  • Denying Indigenous and other students the right to step away or opt out, without penalty, from discussions or course content that recalls intergenerational trauma that they, their families or communities have experienced
  • Using images, videos or audio on difficult topics without prior content advisory thereby re-activating traumatic experiences of learners

To promote positive learning spaces, a few suggestions to consider for a trauma informed approach to discussing Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, include:

Should you know of a student who requires support, please direct them to our on-campus services such as the Gathering Space, Counselling Services, or Student Health Services. They can also be directed to off-campus supports in the community found here.