I am very pleased at how much exposure to Elders we’ve received with this program, and very honored that they’ve chosen to share their stories with us.
What especially resonated with me was Linda’s diagram of advice that she described, with regards to accepting what you are responsible for. You control your reactions and how you behave toward everyone else; you do not control their reactions or how they behave toward you. I think it’s very easy to get bogged down in emotional responsibility as a teacher, even to the point where you’re so overwhelmed that you feel like you can’t control anything. Linda’s philosophy is a very calming, realistic, and grounded ideal, and I know I’m going to need something like it in the years to come.
What really stood out as far as implications for me as a teacher was how strongly each of them still felt the pain they experienced as a child, whether it was Selina being forbidden from speaking Tlingit or David being ostracized at their respective schools. The hurts children suffer leave imprints and scarring that carries over into their adulthood, and has the extreme potential to negatively affect their lives. We as teachers have a massive responsibility to do what we can to prevent these traumas, and heal when we can’t prevent.
We also need to take care and check to make sure what we’re doing/teaching is what’s best for the kids, and not blindly enforcing edicts coming down from on high. The Presbyterians, like Selina said, thought they were doing the right thing; they weren’t paying attention to the needs of the students, or respecting the culture they already had. So we owe it to our students to be aware and understanding to the best of our abilities, and question our teaching methods’ effectiveness to shape it into something that serves the students well.