From the time I was a young child, in the early 1960’s, I always wanted to be in education. Instead of playing with dolls, I tried to check out books from my parents’ extensive library to my brothers. To my dismay, they weren’t interested. My best friend and I would write long class lists with all of our students’ names. I would beg the teachers to let me have to mimeograph worksheets (I can still remember that distinctive smell), to pass out to my make-believe students. Interesting to note, that I thought class lists and worksheets were the key elements in being a teacher!
In high school we were to write a research paper and I didn’t have a clue what topic I could spend hours learning more about. The teacher suggested that it should be something I was passionate about. Ohhhhhh – education! I was very interested in making a difference by teaching Native American children so that was the topic. My grandfather began that passion by taking me to Sioux Falls, South Dakota when I was about five or six to the reservation near there. Writing that research paper started my teaching journey that would take several twists and turns along the way.
In high school, 1972, I began by volunteering in an elementary school for a couple of hours every afternoon and continued the following year by spending half a day, in a high school organized, early childhood setting. In 1975 and 1976 I was completing my college student teaching work in elementary schools in special education and a fifth grade classroom. In 1977 I began teaching in an intermediate school, a 4th – 6th grade resource room in a university town. It wasn’t until 1997, twenty years later, when I was being interviewed for an elementary principal position, that my passion for working with Native American students came to fruition. The Superintendent mentioned the reservation that was within the District’s boundaries and my long ago dream was awakened!
I loved the nine years, in northwestern Wisconsin, I spent working with a community of educators who were the closest, tight-knit, caring individuals that I had the pleasure of working with. I was fortunate to learn from them so much about the culture and beliefs of their tribe. Many hours I spent listening to the stories and knowledge the Chief and members of the tribe shared with me, so I could try to learn more about Native American students.
Fast forward another twenty years and although I am not walking the hallways and classrooms of a school each day, I am trying to provide learning opportunities for current educators using Twitter and Facebook. I have the wonderful opportunity to stay connected, through social media, with the current Native American coordinator, Cherokee Rivers, from the school in northwestern Wisconsin. When our paths crossed during the past summer, I encouraged her to continue to share her tremendous knowledge about the Native American culture using Facebook.
Earlier today on Facebook, she shared amazing resources about books for children.
I responded with the following posting on Facebook to her:
On Twitter, I have shared the story of my good intentions, 20 years ago, to purchase leveled reading material for the students that focused on the Native American culture. I was so excited to show Anabelle the books when she returned to school in the fall. Man, oh man, did I ever make a mistake. I share the story with others so that they too can learn from the error I made. She enlightened me and shared lists of books from Native American authors. I am thrilled to read that you will provide the same resources for those who ask. It’s a perfect example of not knowing what I didn’t know.
She responded: Meredith, your humility speaks volumes to your intent and treasured drive to support Native American students (by going directly to Anabelle) and in your continued quest to remain educated and to advocate for accurate representations and the use of authentic resources.
I had a “light bulb” moment when I connected the resources she was sharing with the amazing book, Being the Change by Sara K. Ahmend that #BookCampPD is currently highlighting. I quickly shared her resources with others on Facebook and Twitter. My Facebook posting:
#BookCampPD has a two week focus w/ Questions of the Day about the book “Being the Change – Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension” by Sara K. Ahmed. I highly recommend it! This Facebook post below speaks volumes to the lessons in the chapter, “Being Better Informed” and several others within the book.
Do you have Native American students in your school? Perhaps you’re not as fortunate as some schools to also have a Native American Coordinator to help guide your actions and decisions or increase your awareness? Fortunately, my connection with Cherokee Rivers and her willingness to communicate with you, could make a huge difference in the life of a child. Thank you for considering this.
I realized I wanted to share more of my connection with social comprehension and Native Americans but felt the 140 characters on Twitter certainly wouldn’t be enough. Ah, but a blog posting would do the trick! Sara K. Ahmed’s book and Cherokee Rivers’ Facebook posting are resources that can impact the lives of children. Please take a moment to investigate them further.
Thank you for your passion to educate our youth!