Including everyone means understanding difference in and on its own terms, helping others find their strengths, and showing them ways to build on them by aligning words, choices, and actions. A fundamental Cherokee life way, including everyone can inform all areas of the work that teachers do: from one-to-one work with students, small groups, and classrooms; to organizing and administering departments with transparency; to building projects together in teams of teachers, students, and parents.
It compliments the ethic of ᎦᏚᎩ /gadugi/ working together as a team and the ethic of ᏗᏣᏓᎫᏍᏓ ᎢᏤᎮᏍᏗ /ditsadagusda itsehesdi/ live and support each other. I've tried to manifest this in the work I'm doing as the director of the MSU College of Arts and Letters Center for Applied and Inclusive Teaching and Learning in the Arts and Humanities.
Specifically, I'm thinking of two peer mentoring projects that focus on successful students helping others become successful by building on each others' language and cultural assets. CAITLAH master teacher, Alissa Cohen, developed the idea for a peer mentoring program in the rich soli of our master mentor teachers collective. Her program pairs advanced undergraduate English language learners with newcomer international students as they progress through the English Language Center's curriculum. The program has grown to include over 100 students students working together to help each other make sense of college life and to practice English as they immerse themselves in American culture.
In CAITLAH's Teaching Diverse Learners project, preservice secondary teachers are placed in MSU's preparation for college writing (PCW) classrooms. The master instructors have engaged in and use regularly CAITLAH workshops and materials on sustaining pedagogies. The preservice teachers enrolled in my English education courses also engage in developing activities and pedagogies to facilitate the linguistic and cultural perseverance of our PCW students. In their PCW classroom placements, the preservice teachers work 1-2-1 with ELL and first generation students, facilitate small groups, lead activities, and run entire class periods by the end of the semester.
The Cherokee ethic of including everyone comes to life for me in these peer mentoring projects. They help me imagine what decolonial education can look like in day-to-day.
Models of change, change agents, teaching, learning, expressive tools, and everyday struggles for dignity, resources, respect, and cultural perseverance.