“Honesty comes when you learn to be fearless with yourself. When you speak and act, straight from the heart … Innocence, curiosity and openness will keep you honest.” – Geronimo Goyathlay (from Seven Sacred Teachings by David Bouchard and Dr. Joseph Martin)
Courtney Savary at Niverville Elementary School has a kind and intuitive way about her and she has developed a warm and inviting class culture where the Seven Teachings can root and grow. The week after we did our lesson on honesty, one of the students shared about their up-coming surgery and how they were feeling about it. This child’s sharing, floating on the Anishinaabe teaching of honesty, opened the door to a class sharing circle that held the fears and worries of her students. She was struck by the depth of vulnerability her students have shown since learning how the Anishinaabe understand honesty.
We’ve been using David Bouchard’s text, Seven Sacred Teachings, and Katherena Vermette’s Seven Teachings Stories texts as the guides for our learning. We have also consulted with an elder in Roseau River First Nation to learn the Anishinaabemowin words for the teachings.
In Vermette’s story, the young boy, Misaabe, tells imaginary stories to his classmates to hide some of the things about himself that make him feel insecure. Things like: how difficult reading is for him and that his dad doesn’t live with him.
The care, compassion and kindness Misaabe’s mother shows him, when she finds out about the untruths impacted me personally. Instead of being angry or punishing him, his mother breathes life and encouragement into him saying, “You know you are super strong even if you don’t beat giant green trolls. And, you are getting better at reading everyday. Your dad loves you very much and wishes he could visit more. You tell great stories, and that’s a wonderful gift. But you know, you’re pretty neat just the way you are too.”
This is the kind of teacher Courtney and I are aspiring to be. Teachers that see the gifts that emerge from our student’s vulnerabilities. Teachers that offer kind redirection, and affirmation to these little humans we spend our days with. In doing so, we hope to create safe conditions for children to be who they are in honest ways.
Seven Teachings Resources
The Seven Teachings Self Assessment created by Aundrea Wallace and Monica Martens based on David Bouchard’s book.