Finding Ourselves Through Circles

“Meaning is improvised together…’telling our story’ is how we make sense of the world and ourselves.” (Loy, 2010)

A small group of Learning Leaders gathered to determine what might be the best way to navigate through the journey of discovering and uncovering what it means take up Indigenous ways of knowing across the curriculum. The purpose is twofold. We want to teach the truth about Truth and Reconciliation in age appropriate and sensitive ways so that we might begin to heal as a country with multiple peoples with a flawed past. Equally, if not more important, are the celebrations of success. Secondly, we are trying to find ways to help educators understand that Indigenous ways of knowing benefit the personal and academic development of all students, both Indigenous and non Indigenous. The success stories and the darker stories that we share with each other are necessary for all students to hear.

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We began in a circle. We went once around the circle beginning with a smudge ceremony to start our day with good intentions, and to cleanse the mind and spirit. We let the smoke travel over our ears so that we might hear the truth, and our hearts so that we might be open to show compassion, gentleness and caring for others.

We went again around the circle to discover who we are, responding to the questions “Who are you? Where are you from and who are your people?” Breathing slowly, rhythmically, we quietly began to share who we are. We learned that it was important to introduce ourselves as who our families are, and where we come from, not by the schools where we work. We are a diverse group consisting of people with Indigenous descent, Indian, South African, Canadian, and European. We hailed from New Brunswick, British Columbia and many provinces in between. The mere act of sharing our descent, showed us how we represented cultural diversity.

We went once more around the circle, sharing a significant memory of our school experiences. Faces softened with empathy as we unearthed stories of heartbreak, sadness, joy and pride. We nodded in recognition, in sympathy and in wonder as we connected our stories to the stories of others. We realized that our stories had everything to do with relationship and nothing to do with academics.

And so, we went three times around the circle. To cleanse, to share, and to create a foundation that would begin to form the fabric of an essential bond to support us in the important work of indigenous learning leaders. We needed to find our way together as a group so that we might share our teaching and learning with others. As we moved through the morning, we gained understanding that the work of the learning leaders was deeply rooted within the community of each school, the Truth and Reconciliation pledge, the provincial collaborative pledge and our school board’s Three Year Education plan. We compared traditional beliefs in education with the spiraling spider web of indigenous world views.

We wondered where and how to situate our work in schools and through the sharing of stories, we began to piece together what this might look like. Learning forward together, we shared our beginning experiences in this role with the different school communities and with our colleagues. Asking questions of each other, nodding in solidarity when someone shared a struggle, writing notes to capture ideas that will help the work to build upon itself and the stories that we will collect.

We are building capacity. Ensuring that our Indigenous students feel safe and welcome at school is essential. As part of this work, Canada has pledged to understand Truth and Reconciliation. As a group, we are uncovering what this means for us. We understand that there can be no reconciliation without truth. This is a hard ugly truth that must be shared in age appropriate and sensitive ways, but shared nevertheless. We acknowledged that the truth is hard for some because it is so sad or because they don’t feel ready. As a communal, collective and united group, we know that we must gently find a way for all to listen. It is tricky to navigate how to embed indigenous ways of knowing throughout the disciplines and how to learn and share our understandings about residential schools. We shared concerns that some are asking how we measure this work. How will we know our impact? How will we know if our leadership is making a difference?

This is enormous work, yet all involved are up for the challenge. There is a strength of spirit that holds up this unique group. It is quiet, determined, passionate and hopeful.

References

Loy, D. (2010). The world is made of stories. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications

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