Shari Majumder educator

Some Applications of the Teachings of the Learning Way

In recent years I have been sharing the Ancient Wisdom of the Walking People amongst various groups of people of my life.

First and foremost, it is becoming so much a part of who I am that it is always part of my thoughts and conversation with my friends and family, especially my daughter.

Secondly, it is also a constant thread in my work with the students and fellow teachers at my school.

Thirdly, and most recently, I have been asked to give talks at my Unitarian church on various topics relating to these teachings. In my classroom of 9-to-11 year olds, I have used the Three Learning Stories in many ways over the past 10 years. Sometimes I have read them aloud and/or played the cassette of Paula’s readings, and followed up with a discussion inspired by the question, “What . . . may we learn from this?”

Other times we have gone into greater depth, rereading the stories carefully, each child choosing a page to practice and then taking turns reading a page at a time to hear the whole story aloud again. We have sometimes written our responses, and compared them to the responses from the first hearing.

Sometimes I have prepared and asked open-ended questions either before or after a reading, or we have together created exercises to deepen our understanding of the poetry. One year, each student wrote his, wrote her own Learning Story, asking for weekly feedback from the group as the writing progressed.

In the last two years, I have also read/told the story of My Father and the Lima Beans on the first day of school. Manipulating a handful of lima beans, I can demonstrate my understanding, and this helps to capture more learning modalities for my students than a straight reading would. Afterwards, we comment and discuss, and talk about the story’s relevance for our Circle and our school year.

In 1998, I used Franklin Listens When I Speak in a Literature Circle format with a group of eight 10-to-12 year olds. In this experience, each student had a copy of the book, and we designated only a certain amount of reading for each of four weeks. Each student also had a specific role to prepare for the weekly discussion, e.g., illustrator of a favorite passage, discussion leader, newspaper reporter, historian, etc. Discussions were fascinating and lively, and lending their understanding to another to deepen the richness of the experience for all. When relevant, I lent my own view as well.

This book also provided a unique new perspective to the class’ concurrent study of the American Revolutionary War period. Besides the use of these specific texts, I find that when I seek to enable the learning of others, I am filled with particular lessons from Paula, especially “saying things three times in three ways,” and “The Rule of Six,” as well as the overriding importance to honor, to celebrate each individual’s contribution, each way of learning. I love the challenge of finding new words, methods, modalities in which to convey a concept when I see confusion on a young face, and the smile that replaces it when we together have reached an understanding!

Though these experiences arise daily in many different situations, I am most reminded of our time working with logic or math problems. Here the Rule of Six comes up constantly, as does the recognition of each individual’s unique thought processes and methods, all leading to viable solutions.

In my church, I have given a few talks/workshops for adult groups around the teachings from the Ancient Wisdom. Some have centered on Who Speaks For Wolf, as well as related exercises exploring the Rule of Six. Once I was asked to speak specifically to Native American spirituality as might be understood from working with aspects of Paula’s tradition.

Another time the designated topic was Native Americans and Racism, in which I presented various perspectives from Paula’s stories or published books, and others then joined in with many other perspectives on this vast and multi-faceted subject, creating a fascinating discussion and time of sharing.