Interview with Piel Paul, Mi’kmaw Language Teacher in Potlotek

How long have you been teaching the Mi’kmaw language? 

This is my first time teaching Mi’kmaq other then teaching my girlfriend, which took sometime but she understands and can speak a lot of Mi’kmaq now.

What are some of the things you like to do with the classes you teach to keep them engaged and interested in learning? 

Most of my teaching involves a lot of conversation. I rarely use handout or sheets. With the lower grades I try to teach them words that they will hear everyday. I also have 1 on 1 conversations with them like greetings. They will come to the front of class ask me in Mi’kmaq how am I doing and I’ll answer and then ask them what about you. With grade 1 to 4 we do some writing and a lot of conversations. We also read books and I try my best to help them understand the books that were given to us by MK. With higher grades they seem to understand a bit more so I try to help them with animate and inanimate plus with some past, present, future tense. I don’t want to push too much and expect them to know it right away. We are also going to do a puppet play where the students make their own skits and I help translate it but they will do the skit in Mi’kmaq themselves. With the new curriculum that is being developed, it would be a really great asset for the next few years where we hope we will help revitalize the language. 

Are there any challenges you are facing and how are you overcoming those challenges? 

My challenge is that there are not any fluent speaking students but a lot of them understand it. I speak Mi’kmaq to all the students and staff in the school because if they keep hearing it eventually they will understand it.  It’s interesting because I really want to see students speaking Mi’kmaq to one another in the school and it’s going to be a break through when it happens. 

Who are some of your teachers/mentors that you go to when you have questions?

I would have to say Terry Denny because he and Anne Marie pushed me to apply in Potlotek. They have supported me in every way possible. When the school year started me and Terry talked about why the language is not going forward and we both agreed that the more you hear it, you’ll eventually know it rather then writing it down and not looking at it again. So I had a plan of what to do and it’s to teach them words they hear 3 to 5 times a day then slowly engage them in other words.  Eventually it will carry over to conversation. The whole staff at Mikmawey school is amazing including the teachers, cook and teacher aides. 

What is your favourite part about working in Potlotek? 

My favorite part in all honesty is just being there. Our students are really lucky because our staff  treats them good. Plus they get to also learn more depth about Mi’kmaq from Terry. Mikmawey school is an amazing place Potlotek should praise themselves for having one of the best educators I’ve worked with. No other school has what we have here in Potlotek our children here are lucky and also they are really respectful. Thank you for raising your children to be respectful we appreciate it greatly.  Also to the community thank you for giving me the opportunity I appreciate it.  Just one last thing – I know a lot of people speak Mi’kmaq in Potlotek. Don’t hide it – speak it! Lets revitalize it together.  Welalin