As an educator and a person of Aboriginal Ancestry I have chosen to focus much of my professional learning on creating education that embraces each student as an individual. That strived to include and ignite all my learners. In the past this meant putting up a variety of cultural artifacts and inviting students to bring their physical culture, sharing music and holiday customs, and a myriad of other pieces that while they were important, turned out to be surface culture. I didn’t understand that while students need to see their culture represented in physical form, these surface culturall pieces alone don’t allow students to access their learning deeply. However, through a collision of many stories and learning I discovered where the access point was, and from there it has become my, (and many other educators) resolution to learn and embed Culturally Responsive Teaching in our classrooms, schools, and districts.
For the purpose of laying the story out as it spun, and explaining the power of these three circles, we start with “Me, Family, Village”. This trio of ideas has been shown to me in a variety ways over the years. It is a deeply Aboriginal concept that comes from the principle of:
- Me: Creating space time and opportunity for children to learn who they are, what makes them unique, what feeds their purpose.
- Family/Team: Once the student knows their strengths they are able to work with purpose and integrity as a family or team member. It is here that we give them explicit tools of working with a team. The language of teams, purposeful conflict, and other dynamics. (A family or team can be a small group, a classroom, a school or a town. The team and systems are reflexive, they move and work dependending on the scope of the Village/System the participants are working towards)
- Village/System: The Village is the place the student is able to enter either as a team or alone. They bring their talents and strengths to bring work that matters and has impact at system level.
Though this platform is Aboriginal in origin, it is used by countless large companies and other organizations. Nothing strengthens or empowers people more than learning who they are, what they need to do well, then giving them the tools and time to build themselves.
I first was introduced to this system while working on my Masters, and when I saw it I was brought back to a time I had a powerful conversation with an incredible Wet’suwet’en woman who came to a high school I was working in. She and her drum circle came to bring dancing and music to our students, with grace and patience she showed all our student body what it looked and sounded like to celebrate and invest in your culture. After the performance was over I spoke with her for a time and she told me something that was later brought to life 1700 kilometres and months away.
“My culture feeds who I am. It helps me navigate and explore what is important to me and gives me the voice I need to tell my story, I want this for all children. No matter where they came from or what Nation they are. Until all people know what it is like to be fed by their culture, how will they understand why it is so important to First People?”