Wednesday, November 5, 2008

the examined life

One of the things about teaching Jove that I love is that I am able to learn myself and with a recent topic we are exploring I definitely needed to be schooled.

I recently had a huge reality check about my own biases and presumptions. Jove mentioned that he was interested in learning more about Native Americans after seeing an exhibit at a nature center and going to a local Pow Wow. Our homeschooling group decided to do it as our next set of topics. I am thinking to myself, good timing with thanksgiving coming up and all (So wrong, I know).
I find this educator's website and it really forced to reexamine how I had envisioned Native Americans in the first place. Most of what is taught gives the perception that Native Americans are no longer alive or at least misrepresents their lifestyle as the way it was at the time of colonization. A common way to teach about Native Americans is to reenact Thanksgiving (as if it was a Native American celebration). After a lot of reading I have realized that there are going to be three guiding principles to my lessons: 1) Native Americans are alive today and discuss both history and current lifeways 2) focus on particular tribes and not generalize and 3) do not devalue or caricaturize Native Americans or their practices by having the kids make dream catchers, feather headresses or dress up as Native Americans. Can you imagine a Latino culture unit where the kids dress up as Latinos? What would that even mean? But, it still happens with Native Americans. I understand the point of teaching history, but by only presenting the past it doesn't leave children with the impression that Native Americans are still alive.

I feel both enlightened and humbled.

Side note: we have no pictures uploaded because of a computer memory issue. Hopefully we'll get it fixed soon.


Nanimal said...

totally... in one of my classes last year we had huge fights about using native american terms as a team logo. people just did not get it. I am glad I read this post... I am being encouraged to do native american sewing projects for 'the season' and am also struggling with how to present it.

I am thinking about medicine pouches with a lesson on healing herbs and how they are still used... if you fins anything in your travels on the internet - please send it on. I'll do a blog about the lesson plan when I am done.

sunnywave said...

reading your post makes me so hopeful and so respectful about how you can have such an impact and influence on how history and learning is passed down to the next generation. what an inspiration! i hope that i can teach the squirrel similar thoughtfulness...

so crazy how what is learned is almost taken for granted...maybe it's the easy road or something, because it is a big effort to unlearn things that don't fit...and yet once you fork off into the road less taken, what gems and pathways you will discover!!
:) sorry for the ramble, i better go to bed!!