Rewilding Pedagogy

Our public education system is designed for domestication. And, as designed, it successfully transforms many of our audacious, curious, and playful young people into individuals that are paralyzed by perfectionism, tentative about taking the initiative and unwilling to throw themselves and their work into the real world out of fear of failure.

Yet, our economy is placing more and more emphasis on creativity, adaptability, and global consciousness. Indeed, the skill sets of the entrepreneur are placed at a premium.

So, how do we go about getting our students to become more entrepreneurial? How do we get them to shed their submissiveness, rediscover their uniqueness, and share their vision of the world with the rest of us?

Tribal Teaching is a pedagogy designed to “Rewild” students.

Rewilding is a process of getting students to:

  • Remember the audacity of their childhood
  • Recognize the system of expectations in which they are submerged
  • Reignite their agency and take responsibility for their own freedom

The Tribal Teaching classroom is a place of extreme student autonomy, authority and responsibility.

The classroom is no longer structured around the teacher’s relative expertise. It is structured around a project – a big project, a world-changing project.

Tribal Teaching requires different skills from the teacher and her students.

The role of the teacher is transformed. She becomes a mentor, coach, and counselor. She nudges, cajoles, encourages, and makes deep investments in building loving trusting relationships with her students.  And, more importantly, as she collaborates with her students she becomes a student of her students.

Students choose their own objectives, set goals, design their own programs, and learn in their own way. They take on their fears, reconsider their histories, rewrite their narratives, and challenge their internal commentary of self-doubt.

Hey Teachers! - p

The Major Principles of Tribal Teaching include:

  • Agency: Tribal Teaching cultivates confidence in one’s own voice and identity. It reminds both teacher and students that the world as we know it is not fixed. It is malleable. They are subjects in the world. And, they are fonts of change.
  • Solidarity: Sustainable social change takes solidarity. Solidarity amongst the students. Solidarity amongst the students and their teacher. And, solidarity among the students, teacher and communities they work with outside their classroom.
  • Work: The change that students and their teacher wish to see in themselves and the world around them does not come easy. It is repetitive work. It is incremental work. It takes patience, persistence, and endurance. It takes a work ethic.

The Essential Elements of Tribal Teaching include:

  • Community: The project is too big to be done alone. It can only be accomplished if the teacher and her students successfully build a trusting loving community of change-making individuals.
  • Culture: The teacher and her students must articulate a set of promises that influence their actions and shape the dialogue they have within themselves, with each other, and with the communities they work with around the world.
  • Commitment: The teacher and her students must commit to do the work.  The success of the project is the result of an interdependent process. One person’s choice to do or not do work has ramifications for the entire tribe. Commitment is everything.
  • Action: Tribal Teaching is a pedagogy designed for action. The teacher and her students must leave the classroom, enter into the world, implement their project, and allow reality to judge the worthiness of their work.

By following these principles and implementing these elements, my students and I have combined creative campaigning with technology to launch national social movements, build change-making organizations, and construct international platforms to take on complex global challenges. And, in the process, we have taken steps towards securing our liberation!

As evidenced by the mark we have left on the world, Tribal Teaching is a pedagogy that works. Wanna learn more?

I have just launched a website dedicated to Tribal Teaching where you can learn more about how Tribal Teaching works and dig into the Resources you need to transform you and your students into a Tribe.

So, if you are an educator, administrator, parent or a social entrepreneur looking to disrupt education, lets connect, collaborate and get to work!

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Shawn Humphrey, the Blue Collar Professor (@blucollarprof)
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