The alert teacher knows what a student needs to learn at a particular moment and teaches it. Most Adult Education programs are not bound by classes artificially divided into separate subject areas. We can, therefore, point out the intrinsic connectedness of all knowledge, irrespective of academic subject divisions. Enthusiastically "going off on a tangent" shows the students that one is free to explore in different directions and is not bound to learn in a linear fashion, oblivious to other questions and related topics that might come up. Some examples of this are:
· During class, an instructor asked a Navajo student about his clan. When he gave her his maternal and paternal clan, she related to him as her brother by both clans. Through out their conversation, they attracted the attention of the other instructors and students. The instructor then asked questions as to how the clan system worked which provided an opportunity to graph the clan and relation systems and extended family as well.
· While an instructor was developing culturally oriented self-esteem materials, a non -native American student asked why she was putting borders around the worksheet. The instructor explained that as a Navajo, learning how to weave at a very early age, she was taught to have good thoughts about her work. These thoughts were transferred to whomever was taught.
The designs represented these good thoughts, and she wanted to share them so that they could pass them on with additions of their own. One evening, while the student was waiting for class to start, the instructors overheard her repeating this teaching to other non-native American students. Her final comment was, "I really think this is a good philosophy because we don't spend enough time thinking good thoughts about ourselves or work. Most of our energy is spent creating reasons for stress, depression, and anxiety."
· One of our instructors is a native of Columbia, and one day he pointed out on a world map the island of San Andres in the Caribbean where he was born and grew up. A student listened with great interest as we pointed out other continents, countries, and geographical features. We then touched on the topic of plate tectonics, comparing the eastern coastline of South America to the Western coastline of Africa. The student, a 35 -year old Native American, came over to follow our conversation more closely. He had gone to school for a total of three years, but he received extensive traditional training as a medicine man. He is familiar with traditional Navajo culture and knowledge, but has great gaps in his knowledge of GED material. He was very interested in the subject of plate tectonics, and in the ideas that all continents were once connected in one super continent.
We then looked in an atlas to see the development of the continents over the millennia, comparing maps in detail. Our student explained that his interest stemmed from his grandmother's teachings. She had said that all continents had once been connected as one giant land mass. The student was satisfied to see that his traditional beliefs were not at odds with science, but indeed were supported by it. It validated his personal knowledge and upbringing, which he had sometimes felt to be useless in mainstream society.
So much of adult education has to be interspersed with counseling, listening, a chance to share and support. "Teachable Moments" help provide hard information while at the same time accommodating soft skills. It is our goal that some of the cultural concepts and cultural lessons contained in this resource guide will assist teachers to recognize and take advantage of these moments.
(Examples contributed by instructors from Native Americans for Community Action, Flagstaff, AZ)
Demographics of Native Americans:
The 1990 census report indicated that there is an estimated 2 million (1.8 million) people who identified themselves as American Indian*/Alaska Native. The 2 million people rep resented 542 tribal groups and spoke over 150 Indian languages. (US Census, 1991)
5.6 % of Arizona's population are American Indians. 142,238 (69.9%) of the 203,527 American Indians in Arizona are off-reservation American Indians (do not live on the reservation) while about 30.1% of the remaining reside on the reservation. (US Census, 1991, Indian Development District of Arizona, Inc.)
There are 21 federally recognized tribes in Arizona. (Attached is a map with reservations and enrollment of members. The enrollment numbers are different compared with the census because the census is based on self-identification, whereas the enrolled members of tribes have fewer numbers and most tribes require a specific blood quantum for eligibility for enrollment. In most cases, an individual may only be enrolled with one tribe; however, some individuals may be in more than one tribe depending on parents' tribes(s).
*Term used by US Census Bureau
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