Deadly Learners

 The term 'Deadly' is often referred to Indigenous students and it means good or great.

Indigenous students often have a disregard for education due to their cultural minority status. All areas of their learning is usually affected but literacy in particular is often low. This can often lead to behaviour and attendance issues. Students in rural and remote communities are often worse than their counterparts in regional or urban areas. (Ashman & Elkins, 2009, p.129)


When working with Indigenous students there are a few 'rules of thumb' that will help you:-

  • Gaining relationships with Indigenous students can often be more difficult than with non-indigenous students. The reasons being cultural differences. According to Gary Pardington (2006) Indigenous culture doesn't see teachers as being superior but have a more Egalitarian outlook (everyone is equal). Therefore, teachers who stand over, yell at, talk down to or try and display power over Indigenous students will have trouble gaining meaningful relationships and as a result poor behaviour will often occur
  • Indigenous students don't often like to be singled out for either negative or positive behaviours.
  • In Indigenous culture it is a mark of disrespect to look someone in the eye. Therefore, making students look at you when being disciplined will have a negative effect, and will cause the student to become anxious and stressed.


To build positive relationships with Indigenous students Pardington (2006) suggests the following:-

  • Have a good knowledge of students’ backgrounds. Don’t assume they all come from the same background. For example, some will have highly educated parents; others will not speak English except when with non-Indigenous people:
  • Build on knowledge of children in classroom and playground interactions.


  • Be firm, consistent and fair. Students do not like teachers who are unfair and inconsistent;


  • Don’t harangue students or speak ‘strongly’ to them. Try to be calm and pleasant;


  • Set standards regarding performance: high expectations but with good support and warm relationships. Students like teachers who help them in their work;


  • Work individually with students, particularly when public awareness of their lack of knowledge could be embarrassing;


  • Use humour: students appreciate teachers who can defuse potentially explosive situations with a witty remark. Humour helps to establish good relationships, but don’t use it to embarrass individuals;


  • Ensure the curriculum has elements of cultural relevance;


  • Show that you want students to be successful and competent. Stress the need to acquire skills for success and show them the pathways to success so that schooling isn’t a mystery to them.


  • Work with Indigenous support staff to establish sound learning environments;


  • Engage informally with parents, students and others so they get to know you are a good person.

                 Jawoyn Country, Arnhem Land, Australia.

         Image sources from Flick under creative commons licence. 

  Image- Indigenous learning-sourced from W.A DET

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