First Nations Principles of Learning

reclaiming you that risk was an attempt

to show the world some of the wisdom

that comes out of Aboriginal culture and

life and in particular how it is that

Aboriginal people raise strong children

see we know that your that your mind has

to be educated if you're going to live

well in Canadian society it's a complex

society it's a complex culture and you

really need to have an education to live

well in this society if you don't have

grade 12 the quality of your life is

going to be diminished if you don't have

that education not only your own life

but the lives of your children and your

grandchildren are negatively impacted if

a person leaves school before completing

great else so you have to have an

educated mind but what our ancestors

were particularly skilled at was

teaching a person's heart now we don't

even have a good word for that some

societies have talked about the cultures

some societies have talked about the

virtues at UBC we always use the term

formation to talk about the learning

that can occur on the inside of a person

the learning that can occur in the human

heart because it doesn't work the same


as learning in the mind I can teach

somebody's mind by just talking to them

that's enough to get an idea in a

person's head but I get something into

your heart only if I give you certain

experiences see we know from about a

century of research that there are four

kinds of experiences that create a

strong human being number one if you

know that you are significant let's see

I see you every day and I say to you

every time I see you you're very

important to me well after 10 years of

doing that I've talked to your mind

so how do I get it down into your heart

by how I treat you

how I treat you will place that learning

into your heart so every human being

needs to know these four things that I

am significant that I am capable that

I'm powerful on the inside and that I'm

a genuinely good human being my

co-authors and I took these four human

needs and we looked to see how our

ancestors raise children to experience

that and we put it around a medicine

wheel because our discovery was that our

ancestors knew that belonging lets you

know how important to our mastery is how

you experience what you know what you're

capable of independence in the sense of

being responsible for yourself that kind

of power on the inside is how I will

know that I'm a strong human being and

fourthly if I live a life of generosity

that's how I will know my goodness and I

will need to restore that sense of

goodness if I ever go through a crisis

of some kind so let's think briefly

about these for belonging is probably

the most necessary human experience it's

in every child if I had a mom sitting on

the chair here and a baby's crawling on

the floor the baby looks up and sees

unfamiliar faces where's that baby going

to go call right over to mom right how

do you teach this to a baby do you put

arrows on the floor to give them

learning objectives with pre-tests know

it's in them they come that way every

baby in the world knows that it's

important to belong every teenager in

the world wants to be with friends and

that's normal for all teenagers and so

we want to think about this theme of

belonging as a strategy if first of all

it's a philosophy it's a way to look at

the world everything belongs somewhere

every human being should belong to

someone we should train ourselves to

respond with belonging and write it into

every policy that we have belonging

should be a theme lots of schools

imagine they are very belonging places

but when a teenager is in crisis how do

they respond unblocking

but they don't call it and belonging

they give it other kinds of names like

time out they will say zero tolerance

they will say out-of-school suspension

it's the wrong response what you want to

do when a person is in crisis is

surround them with special connections

we want to train ourselves to respond

with belonging that has to become a part

of our philosophy we have to find

technique ways that we can embody this

because we want people to learn this by

experience if they're going to be strong

see the circle of courage philosophy is

how you turn someone's intergenerational

trauma in a positive direction you

change a person's biological legacy in a

positive direction if you provide lots

of belonging experiences and experiences

of mastery it's in every human being to

want to succeed

the parent of a three-year-old will tell

you every argument you have with a

three-year-old is whether or not you're

going to let her do it herself the

parent of a sixteen year old will tell

you every dispute you have with that

sixteen year old is whether or not

you're going to let him do it himself

and when you come to visit me when I'm

living in the nursing home listen to

what I say to the staff because pretty

often it's going to be let me do it

myself every human being has a desire to

succeed yet we can break it

mastery isn't getting something done

mastery is discovering what you can do

because that's naturally in every single

human being so if we want people to have

these qualities down the left column we

have to make sure that they discover

what they can do it has to become a

philosophy but it also has to be a

source of techniques as well

independence we're using in the sense of

responsibility being responsible for

yourself and the best strategy that

adults have here is using discipline

appropriately my task is to teach my

children how they don't need me how to

be so empowered that they don't need me

any longer and that's what discipline

does if as a parent I take the rule of

being a coach and a cheerleader that's

the perfect kind of parenting that we

can give

real discipline gives you a person who

makes a decision because it's right not

because anybody's watching and they're

very different kinds of dynamics our

real job as adults is to empower young

people so they don't need us anymore

if you look back at the traditional ways

of your people you will discover that

gradually and appropriately we empowered

our young people until they became

people who contributed to our

communities and who took their rightful

role as adults and did all the right

kinds of things our system was not a

system of control it was a system of

empowerment and that's that's typical of

Aboriginal childcare if we want people

to have the qualities down the left

column we have to give them

opportunities for generosity this is why

on the coast people have a tradition of

potlatch we use them to mark any turning

point in our life when our custom is we

invite everybody we know we feed them

and enough food isn't enough there has

to be too much food there has to be so

much food that everyone carries some

home that's when you have enough food

and then we deliberately accumulate all

the goods we can so we can give them


so everyone takes something home as a

memento of this event and we will

remember this event they were witnesses

to this event then you're supposed to

give away until you don't have anything

left and actually it's only when you get

to that point that you can turn your

life in a positive direction real

generosity hurts real generosity has to

cost my point in this circle of courage

is to say this is a resiliency code if

you want to be a strong human being you

have to have these four kinds of

experiences over and over again see we

can't guarantee that your life is going

to be for your problems because nobody's

life is free of problems everybody has

problems but if you have resiliency

which is what you get out of these

experiences the resilient people when

life knocks them down get up one more

time and if you look into the face of a

child you will see in the heart of that

child everything that we can be

and we can become that if we use these

themes of belonging and mastery and

independence and generosity thank you

for inviting me