Core Practice #1: Humility

May your life be like a wildflower growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day.

Native American proverb

Last week, I wrote briefly about the potency of honouring and living our school’s core practices within my teaching practice, and how these core ‘values’ have helped to create, shape (square peg in a system of round holes), and continue to light the way for our collective approach and pedagogy towards learning. The first elemental core practice, humility, is the considered our cornerstone value to which the others are infinitely linked in a continuous cycle.

I recall a time early in my career when I figured that I had made ‘it’. I was a certified teacher armed with all of the skills, tools, and knowledge that I would ever require. I made it through four years of undergraduate, a one year teacher education program, and a masters diploma. Why would I need humility to do this job? Families and students were now looking to me as the guide, knower, and teacher. I would stay the course. Of course.

Twenty-four years later, I find myself continually humbled both by what I do not know as an educator, and by what I do know. I have found much comfort in humility, in learning to know myself, my strengths, my challenges as an educator. In in a word, grounded. The trust that families continually place in me to do best by their kids is a humbling and, at times, overwhelming (with a dash of frustration) experience. As an educator, I have come to the actualization that I hold an immense privilege. One that I had taken for granted in all of roles that I have held. It is a unique privilege. It is one that I no longer take for granted. A privilege that is humbling. The privilege is this: I get to witness a very small part of an individual’s profound journey as they ‘become grounded in knowing who they are.’

To me, having the courage to tell your own story goes hand in hand with having the curiosity and humility to listen to others’ stories.

Sarah Kay, educator & author

What could be more humbling to an educator than listening with curiosity the stories of our students as we share and tell ours? Seriously. Is there? In a letter dating back a decade and a half, our school founder (and its first teacher), Liz Tanner, clearly outlined that our school is a “learning community built on mutual respect and support” and that as the teacher she “work[ed] from the assumption that the family is the most effective learning unit possible” and her primary role was to “try to imitate some of that natural ease and assumption that learning is organic.” What? But what about the teacher?

Welcome to humble-town, folks.

Within our school community, there is, perhaps, no better example of living the core practice of humility than in the act of our opening and closing daily circles. This coming together to begin and end our day of shared learning is a ritual that goes all the way back to the school’s inception nearly two decades ago. Much has been written about the power of the circle; of the daily meeting of the community; of sharing story; of practicing humility. A simple Google search reveals the transformative capacity of regular community circles (I mean, indigenous cultures around the world have been using for a millennia, right?) in formal school settings globally.

As we collectively ‘ground’ ourselves within ourselves as a part of the the humus (‘earth’), we continue explore who we are as learners, as individuals, and as a collective. And perhaps (with a touch of faith), this awareness further strengthens our relationships, builds trust, and grows our courage as members of a learning community.


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