Points of Pride

Touching Lives, Changing Systems, Creating the Future

Posted on Mon, Oct 22, 2012
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By Henry H Fowler (ELC '10)

Fielding allowed me to thrive from the comfort of my cultural environment.

Fielding’s focus on the art of teaching brought me back to my Native land.  I was challenged to study and investigate curriculum as it related to my native population and create new approaches that could make a difference in the lives of young Navajo people. 

Even though I have long been motivated to teach math, throughout the years of my teaching career, I began to have mixed feelings about teaching math.  My enthusiasm about teaching math had begun to lessen. Each year in my math classes, I observed my students who were quiet and unmotivated to learn mathematics. My teaching was unattractive to them and they found my questions meaningless. My daily challenge was to teach math to students who lacked knowledge of basic math facts, were unmotivated, had high absenteeism and tardiness, were unprepared for class, lacked parental support, lacked current math books, had no access to technology, had high class enrollment, and were disruptive.  The sum of these reasons weighed heavily on me, and my passion for teaching began to stall.  Fortunately, my enrollment at Fielding afforded me a new platform for thinking critically about my teaching experience.  As a direct result of my work at Fielding, I have made inquiry and gained clear insight about teaching math to Navajo students.  This has set the stage for invigorated research about and development of new instructional strategies that have energized my students to learn math and me to teach.

I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to experience a wealth of education through Fielding Graduate University. Fielding provided me an education that was practical, meaningful, and relevant. The Educational Leadership and Change curriculum was suitable for me and it was tailored to my needs.  The schooling I received at Fielding is closely correlated with the teaching of the Navajos. In the Navajo culture, our elders illuminate their teaching based on the notion that is up to an individual to be a self-directed learner, to find balance, and to produce positive experiences that will improve quality of life for everyone. Fielding’s similar emphasis on self-direction to create positive experiences, has allowed me to extend my knowledge in areas of my interest to me and to explore and integrate other theories to expand my perspective in education. Fielding was open to and supportive of my cultural background.  This support has allowed me to strive for more in-depth study.

Fielding helped open the opportunity for me to address the dismal outlook of the Navajo high school poor performance in mathematics.  As a direct result of the Fielding curriculum, I am more aware of my surroundings and how they impact teaching delivery and reception.  I bring an enlivened critical thinking mindset to my intellectual endeavors, and I feel empowered as a teacher to lead efforts to change the math education on the Navajo Reservation.  I am encouraged to broaden the perspective of my immediate horizon and challenged to actively pursue my interest in improving math education for Navajo students.  The Fielding approach to learning engaged me and afforded me learning experiences which were was relevant and meaningful.

The Navajos believe they are part of nature, and that this natural order gives directions for life.  The Navajos agree their natural surroundings bring the energy of spirit to the people.  That energy is infused with purpose and direction for the Navajo people.  According to Hozho, the Navajo purpose on this earth is to keep in balance, harmony, and respect with the natural order.  A good life resides in every angle of the morning light with a promising sense of beauty, hope, and determination for every individual.  The Navajo understand, that with a sense of the complementary and supplementary, an individual will feel beauty above, below, around, and before him or her from every angle.  The Navajo continue to practice this traditional heritage.  Complementary angles are two angles whose angles add up to 90 degrees and supplementary angles are two angles whose angles add up to 180 degrees. Using the Hozho model, this phenomenon could be represented to Navajo learners as ‘beauty above me + beauty below me = 90 degrees, and beauty around me + beauty before me = 180 degrees.  I believe it is time for Navajo educators to lead in creating educational math materials for the Navajo high school students to support their mathematical reasoning and communication. This approach to Navajo education would help students realize that math is part of their culture and to inspire students take an interest in appreciating and studying mathematics rather than feeling separate from it and mystified by it. 

The learning I acquired from Fielding provided me with new skills to tackle the problematic issues faced by the Navajo high school students in learning mathematics and succeeding on the standardized tests. Fielding staff provided excellent feedback for me to grow and expand my horizons in the scholarly world by recommending stellar literatures to read that related to my interests and field of study.  Fielding staff made me feel special because they listened to and valued my opinions.  I feel as if I have been nourished.


Tags: educational leadership, diversity, multicultural, graduate education