Cultural Lessons to Encourage Vulnerability

We all know that evaluating every child the same, and teaching every child the same, is not equal. As educators we have felt this in our bones since the moment we began teaching. Asking every child to show their learning, or to learn in the same way is much like the image above, unfair. However, we have much to do in this area. Not only do we have to change this paradigm in schools, with educators, principals, senior management and school boards; even with more difficultly we have to change the perception of education with our parents, and our students. We believe this is one of the most difficult challenges. However, with B.C.’s New Curriculum we now have the backing of the Ministry to articulate, demonstrate, and validate the necessary work we must accomplish to bring out each learners individual, unique abilities. So, as the research led us, we followed and began by seeking methods to have the learner explore “self”. Who are they, how do they learn, what has influenced them, as well as a myriad of other important self exploration pieces. Below we will articulate how we have begun. Though we started this project this year in three uniques places, a French Imerssion English 8 class, an 8-12 Community classroom, and a school wide initiative in a high school intended for a “Be the Change” project the entire school is involved in, the beginning phases of knowing “me” are nearly the same.

A few years back Rosanna took a piece of advice from an esteemed Professor.

“It is integral that children know who they are, really and truly understand what makes them, them. But do not ask children to do this work if you as an educator have not also done it. Do you know yourself as well as you think? I assure you knowing yourself will change the way you teach others.”

So after further research proved how essential it was to begin with the learner, to start with their selves we began experimenting on ourselves. Do I know who I am? Do I really know how I learn, what my own strengths and weaknesses are? If I was asked to explain what made me unique, or how I would most likely to be evaluated could I answer? It turned out, no. So we began our work with Me, as we all should, then brought it to a Family, a class that worked through a similar self discovery process, and then expanded this to the Community, where we are now making these steps available to much of our district. The beginning steps look much the same across all of these platforms. However, after these initial steps in knowing themselves each of these Families has adapted the strategies to suit their individual needs.

  1. Lesson One: Witnessing  Cowichan Witnessing and Sawa Bona Sawa Bona

*In our first lesson we teach the students about these two very important pieces, as they set up a foundation of what it looks like to be a partner in the process of “self-discovery”. It is a central piece of everything we do from this moment onwards, and we can come back to it time and again to remind the students of how to treat people and be treated by people in this process.  Witnessing is a common First People’s Practice. The piece we have included here gives a very brief overview of the meaning and method of witnessing. The key is this; you are witnessing for someone else, you must be present and account for the story’s ideas and musings they are sharing. You must use your most intense listening skills to hear their story and be able to recount it for them. It is often seen as a sign of disrespect to be writing when you are supposed to be present with someone while they are witnessing, so we have experimented with using three people in a group, the story teller tells their ideas directly to the witness, and a recorder may sit behind or to the side collecting the words and ideas in a written format. However, we are still tinkering with the best methods when we witness.

*In the same lesson we teach Sawa Bona, the piece we have linked to is another blog that speaks to the process through their interpretation. We will also include the video we used to show the whole school in their home rooms. The idea of Sawa Bona is that you are truly present, you, “SEE” them. Some interpretations say that it is the essence of two people seeing each other. I see your strength, I see your fears, I see all that you are and I am here for you, not as a judge, but to help you fully exist.

We teach these concepts explicitly and deeply. We talk about the power of seeing someone fully, of accepting and celebrating everything that we see in them that is unique, and those things in them we see in ourselves. We go on to speak of the importance of witnessing, we teach the history of witnessing to oral Cultures, we speak to the honour and importance of the roles and we tell them how important it is that they use these two concepts when working with others. This is big work, and we were curious how it would be received by students. We wondered what it would look like for them to put these ideas into practice. Fine, we were unnecessarily worried.

Again and again, in every setting the students have knocked our socks off! They take it seriously, they focus and offer the best of who they are to others, no matter if that person was their friend to begin with, or a person they had not previously talked to! It never ceases to amaze us how deeply it speaks to them. They can feel its truth, you must be here completely, letting someone else be who they are fully, and in return I can fully be myself. No judgements, no pressure, just me.

Video one Sawa Bona