Through the past few months, I have been challenging myself and my approaches to leadership and education writ large by exploring indigenous ways of knowing through the work of Richard Wagemese and other incredible resources provided by colleagues, and a workshop with Anima Leadership; in fact, I am excited to be taking part, just this week, in “Decoding Race for White Leaders: Creating Cultures of Belonging” led by Emma Lind, Diversity Facilitator and Educator and Annahid Dashtgard, Anima Leadership Co-founder, as a way to continue to think about my professional and personal work. What follows is a bit of my walk in this work…
Recently, “Embers” and “One Drum” by Wagamese have held for me powerful reframing of approaches and understanding of leadership and learning within education. They are focussing my J.E.D.I. lens through which to view my work. I have been practicing some of these approaches in my classroom, and in my leadership practice within my school.
Where I started my thinking was with the writings of Wagemese. From Indian Horse, he writes: ““We need mystery. Creator in her wisdom knew this. Mystery fills us with awe and wonder. They are the foundations of humility, and humility is the foundation of all learning. So we do not seek to unravel this. We honour it by letting it be that way forever.” So, I wondered: If humility is the foundation of all learning, then how might we dive deeper into our use of UdB and Essential Questions to foster mystery and wonder?
From “One Drum” I am learning about the power of ceremony to connect and understand: meditation, mindfulness practice, and silence. I practiced this in my classes as best I could. We addressed some neuroscience research on the power of wait-time. One strategy was to connect students’ digital world with the physical experiences and giving them moments to reflect on the similarities and differences. I also used Mark Brackett’s work and the Mood Meter to develop a routine on how to connect with their emotions in the moment. These practices are just surface, really; however, it made me miss some of the traditions and ceremonies of our own school pre-Covid-19 protocols – for example, our school assemblies. Wagamese writes: “Within the realm of perfect love there is no judgment. If there is no judgment then there can be no failure. In turn, if failure does not exist, there is no unworthiness. We are all one energy. We are worthy and we always were. We never have to qualify. And ceremony was born to allow us to remember that.” What is the role of “Tradition as Ceremony” in our schools? What are the histories of these constructs, and what can we learn from them?
As I was thinking and considering these reflections, I was also reading a few other books / articles that really pushed my thinking even further. These caused a great intersection of challenge for me and my thinking.
One was “The Skin We’re In” by Desmond Cole. The first chapter weaves the experiences of Black Canadians with Indigenous peoples:
My ancestors and the Indigenous peoples who signed Treaty 7 have acritical common experience: both were oppressed by a group whose legacy is so unquestioned today that we usually don’t even name it. (pg. 13)
Indigenous ways of knowing, borne of their experiences under colonialism is a powerful intersection with the history of Black Canadians. This work is important, it is complex and it is emotionally challenging for me. I am so grateful for the colleagues in Cohort 21 and in my school who continue to push my thinking and peel back the layers of my identity to broaden and deepen my understandings, perspectives and approaches.