I would first like to reflect on myself as a learner. As a student in Indigenous Education I always reflect on this concept. What is Indigenous Education? And what does it mean to me in the context of this assignment? I was 8 years old when I received my ancestor name. This name came with specific responsibilities. In order to be honored with an ancestor name, one has to learn where the name comes from and the history of that name. So when my sisters and I were 6, 7, and 8 years old, we started to learn our genealogy. My mother would sit us in a circle in our living room and teach us about our history and people we never knew in our lifetime. This is where education started for me.
As I was reading Benander it reminded me of some experiences at Western Washington University where I received my bachelors degree. She discusses the experience of the novice learner and how the expert may overlook basic knowledge that comes with experience. While I was attending WWU I was not a traditional student. I was older and half way through my studies I became a mother. Traditional students who live on or near campus usually attend orientation and know where computer labs are located. I had to figure these things out on my own which led to different problem-solving strategies. Today, these strategies allow me to problem-solve at UAF. I am not on campus, in fact, I have been a student at UAF for a year now and haven’t set foot on campus. This experience also contributes to my reflections about novice learning.
As a learner I’ve always focused my studies on the Lummi people. I am sure other students at Western Washington University in the Anthropology department were getting tired of hearing another presentation about Lummi people. But I wanted to ensure that everything I was learning in school reflected back to the reason I was there, for the betterment of my community. I honestly don’t think that I am an expert about the history and culture of my people. It can take a lifetime of learning to truly understand. But after 10 years of study and years of learning starting when I was 8 years old, I know more than some people. When I stand in front of a new class of students at Northwest Indian College, I always gauge where they are in their learning. I always have a mix of students and we all have to get to the same end.
Benander discusses the importance of reminding one’s self what it means to be a novice learner and that can provide insights to the structure that some need. When I first started teaching, my class structures were lacking. I didn’t always follow the schedule, I forgot to send reminders to students about due dates, and didn’t send out a grading rubric outlining my expectations for student writing. I quickly realized that my lack of structure was the reason students didn’t know when their first drafts were due and the papers they turned in were all over the place. I didn’t set a standard and make my expectations clear to them. So I improved the following quarter and constantly reflected on my experiences as a student. In a way, the novice learners were teaching me, the supposed expert.