Revealing Culturally Embedded Knowledge in the Practice of School Psychology: A Personal Perspective on the Navajo Way of Life by ProQuest


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									                                                       ST uDENT CoNNECTIoNS
                                                                                                         our four scared mountains, which are located in the four directions. The door of our
Revealing Culturally Embedded                                                                            traditional octagon-shaped homes faces east to greet the sun. Herding sheep, I learned

Knowledge in the Practice of School                                                                      very quickly how to plan, be responsible and dependable, use leadership skills, and
                                                                                                         be creative. I assisted in shearing the sheep’s wool in the spring which was eventually
Psychology: A Personal Perspective                                                                       woven into a beautiful Navajo rug by my grandmother. Through this process I devel-
                                                                                                         oped such cognitive skills as attention to task, planning and precision, visual–motor
on the Navajo Way of Life                                                                                coordination, using multiple sources of information, and hypothetical thinking.
                                                                                                              As a child on the Navajo reservation, I was exposed to authentic levels of ecology,
By Janice tSo                                                                                            physics, geometry, history, communication, and critical thinking. My teachers presented
                                                                                                         all learning as totally new and unconnected to my everyday life. I gradually began to lose

E        arly developmental stages serve as the founda-                                                                                        and become embarrassed by my cultural ways. I was in-
         tion for the success children experience in school                                                                                    timidated by my new surroundings, which influenced my
         and beyond. As a Navajo, my life experience and                                                                                       overall learning and performance. My cross-cultural “dis-
background profoundly impacted me, and led to my am-                                                                                           connect” and discomfort was interpreted as being “slow.”
bition to open the eyes of those who do not understand                                                                                        As school psychologists, when we identify strengths and
the psychology of Native American students. My culture                                                                                         resilience in children, we are able to build confidence and
and surroundings embedded in me a wealth of knowl-                                                                                             empower them. Therefore, it is critical to pay close atten-
edge, yet this was often discounted by my schools and                                                                                          tion to every child and their ways of learning. If we can
teachers. Looking deeply into a child’s culturally based                                                                                       interpret the behavior of a child through their own cultur-
roots of cognitive knowledge, one finds that children are,                                                                                     ally grounded lenses, we then have true communication
in fact, very clever. As school psychologists, we must use                                                                                     and can create positive and successful changes.
creative ways to reveal that embedded cultural knowl-                                                                                               The third Navajo life stage, Hanitsekees Niliinii Hazlii
                                                                                Courtesy of jAniCe tso

edge in children and foster an early sense of competence                                                                                      (when one’s thought begins existing), occurs between
as learners. We can accomplish this by promoting cogni-                                                                                        the ages of 10 to 15 (Deyhle and LeCompte, 1994). In
tive, emotional, and social processes that will enhance                                                                       Janice tso       this stage, we are growing up and becoming responsible
student confidence and bridge concepts between home                                                                                            for our families. When Navajo girls have their first men-
and school. Understanding children’s developmental contexts is just the beginning.                       strual cycles, a Kinaalda, the coming-of-age ceremony (Roessel, 1993, p. 9), takes place.
     Navajo philosophy teaches that everything is holistic or related—that all we encoun-                Its purpose is to mold the young girl into a responsible, beautiful, strong woman. She
ter in life intertwines and weaves into what creates our pathway. Deyhle and LeCompte                    is dressed in traditional clothes throughout the ceremony and she runs three times a
(1994) explain that while Western science treats cognition, moral development, and so-                   day in the direction of the sun. She learns specific skills, prayers and songs, discipline,
cial development separately, Navajo culture integrates all aspects of development into                   and responsibility. By the end of the ceremony she is beginning young womanhood;
a unified approach to life experiences and learning. We recognize each developmental                     however, at school her new skills and maturity are neither recognized, celebrated, nor
stage with rituals and ceremonies, which connects us to all living things on earth.                      connected to classroom learning.
     As Navajos, we believe in four phases of life which outline a harmonious and bal-                        The fourth stage of Navajo life, Ada Nitsidzikees Dzizlii (when one begins to think for
anced way of being. The first, known as the beginning of Iina (life), is from within the                 oneself), is from age 16 and up (Deyhle and LeCompte, 1994). In this stage, we believe
womb to age 5. During this stage we protect children’s fragile and developin
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