Culturally Responsive Teaching & Gratitude

Again, it was powerful to see a panel of Elders speak about growing up here in Southeast Alaska. Everything about the teaching I saw on Friday both at the camp and within our classroom was culturally responsive. In one day we were able to watch carvers in the hallways  and eat salmon berries on the math trail. Everything felt grounded in the place and its surrounding cultures.

John Martin spoke about how the knowledge of hunting and gathering was moved from a person’s head into hardworking hands. I really liked this concept of how intelligence could also be physical. It made me think about the importance of ensuring kinesthetic learners have the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding in a classroom.

I was excited to hear  women speak about their lives and culture and I’m impressed at the attention to creating gender balance at the camp. This is an example of culturally responsive teaching. Irene Cadiente told a series of beautiful short stories about the different moments in life when a spirit had guided her. She went far beyond the concrete parts of culture and looked deeper into the concept of faith.

After the Elders finished speaking, we watched the students first Ravens then Eagles, thank the Elders. The thank yous were heartfelt and authentic. You could feel the gratitude in the room and hear the call and response of “Gunalchéesh!” from the Elders. Our class was invited to participate which made us feel included, but also showed the importance of the practice of sharing moments of appreciation.

This sharing of gratitude reminded me of when Tina and Paula came to teach us about math and science lessons. Both teachers encouraged “social debriefing” after students worked together as a group. They encouraged their students to ask questions like: What worked? What didn’t? What could we improve? Why were some groups more successful than others? Why was the data different? As David said, it is okay to be corrected. That is when learning happens. Tina also mentioned it is a good time to have groups compliment one another and build connections. Both the experienced educators and Elders stressed the importance of valuing each and every student, encouraging learning, and expressing gratitude.

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