valuing old teachings

This morning I listened to an indigenous Australian speak about how his people have dealt with wildfire for thousands of years. Apparently, the government is looking into this, yet not putting the money and effort behind this time-honored indigenous-based land management. His words reminded me of the chapter I had just finished in Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The book jacket describes Kimmerer as “a mother, scientist, decorated professor and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation,” making her a spokesperson for both the scientist and indigenous person. Each beautifully written essay tells of how our developed and scientifically driven thinking often ignores or devalues the teachings of indigenous peoples. She constructs connections as well as gives commentary on how the two worlds are at odds.

Sad. There value in our human experiences. Yet, we ignore our history in a rush to get to the new, to not miss out on the latest for fear, we will become obsolete. Ironically, we might be destroying ourselves in the process.

I thought of what traditions and teachings have been passed down in my family. What has survived? The teachings of how to live in us as long as we teach it to others. That worries me. Did I pass the lessons on to my kids? So much of how to is contained on YouTube video. Is this the new teacher?  Do our elders feel ignored, replaced, devalued?

Some things can’t be found on YouTube. How to be in the world. How to treat others, animals, our environment. More than ever, teachers carry this load along with instruction in subject areas.

Teachers are given this along with a new something to teach or teach with. It’s not that we don’t grow and evolve as educators, but are there teachings and beliefs that hold constant?

In a recent staff meeting, I chronicled my years of professional development in reading. As each new book or new staff developer entered my world, I’d take on their thinking and bring it into my classroom, often at a cost to previously learned strategies and stances.


Looking back on my wise teachers, I checked in on what teachings I still hold on to and consider the ones I have forgotten. Some strategies have blended into others in my reading instruction. But I still have questions. How effectively am I using these strategies? Am I undervaluing some tools? Overvaluing others? Are there some strategies that I’ve set aside that could benefit individual students?

I am very fortunate to have such rich experiences as a professional. I have been blessed with the teachings of wise educators. Revisiting their lessons is good practice.