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Deyhle and LeCompte (1994) explain that while Western science treats cognition, moral development, and social development separately, Navajo culture integrates all aspects of development into a unified approach to life experiences and learning. Through this process I developed such cognitive skills as attention to task, planning and precision, visual-motor coordination, using multiple sources of information, and hypothetical thinking. [...] it is critical to pay close attention to every child and their ways of learning.
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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