As an educator and a person of Indigenous 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 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 cultural pieces alone do not allow students to access their learning deeply. However, through a collision of many stories and learning our team discovered where the access point was, and from there it has become our, (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, Community”. This pedagogical trio has been shown to us in a variety ways over the years. It is a deeply Indigenous 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. Allows the learner time to sit with information, to make prior connections and access their curiosity free from the influence of others.
- Family: Once the student knows their strengths they are able to work with purpose and integrity as a family member. It is here that we give them explicit tools of working with a family. The language of family, purposeful conflict, and other dynamics. (A family can be a small group, a classroom, a school or a town. The Family is reflexive, it takes on a variety of shapes just like the Community, depending on what is needed from it.
- The Community: The Village is the place the student is able to enter either as a family or alone. They bring their talents and strengths to support work that matters and has impact at system level.
Though this platform is Indigenous 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 together..
Rosanna was first introduced to this system while working on her Masters, and when she saw it she was brought back to a time she had a powerful conversation with an incredible Wet’suwet’en woman who came to a high school she was working in. She and her drum circle came to bring dancing and music to Rosanna’s students, with grace and patience she showed all the student body what it looked and sounded like to celebrate and invest in one’s culture. After the performance was over Rosanna spoke with her for a time and she told her 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?”