I am writing in regard to Wednesday’s planned field trip to the Kent Monkman exhibit at Agnes Etherington Gallery.
As I said in the blog last week, I knew this exhibit was “risky”. As a teacher, I am not inclined to shy away from risks or from taking students outside of their comfort zone. Well-facilitated experiences and subsequent conversation can move students through discomfort toward a new or wider view of their world. I take this responsibility seriously, and generally think I’m pretty good at it.
There is perhaps no more important conversation for us to be having as Canadians than our historical and current relationship with the Indigenous People of this land. Today’s students will be impacted by this conversation in the years ahead, so I think it is vital they can participate as informed, thoughtful citizens.
When the curator of the gallery contacted me, judging that this was an appropriate exhibit for Grade 5 and 6 students, I eagerly accepted her view. As I had always planned to do, I visited the exhibit (twice) this weekend, and found it to be as impactful and important as I had predicted. Really, it is very moving and I encourage you to go.
But I do not agree that all of our students are ready for this exhibit. The work is filled with powerful symbolism and complex, provocative images meant to be interpreted by mature participants. Enough of the images will be confusing or distracting to enough of the children that I think the important messages of the exhibit will be lost. (I do, however, think that several of the pieces are quite within our reach and deeply meaningful. I will share these images when it is relevant to our studies). As a teacher, I do not think I could effectively facilitate the questions and conversation that would arise. Therefore, after much thought and discussion–with colleagues and parents–I have decided to cancel this trip.
I want to thank the parents who contacted me about this proposed trip–both in support and in doubt. I do not take your trust lightly on any day but have especially appreciated it this week.
If we can get to the Agnes at another time, we will. As always, I am available if you would like to discuss this further.