Agency

I have trouble articulating Tribal Teaching in traditional pedagogical terms.

I do not see it as project-based learning, service-learning or experiential-learning. Although it is all of these things. I see it as a quest, journey, or an odyssey.

I do not think of it in terms of “learning outcomes”. I think of it in terms of an “awakening”.

You feel Tribal Teaching. And, when it is working, this is how it feels – at least to me. (Warning: The following includes fantastical creatures and music.)

We are on the move.

We are leaping, running, and flying.

We are swinging, swimming, and climbing.

We have taken off our masks, discarded our armor, and shaken off our human forms.

We have assumed our natural forms – the bugs, beasts and bird-like creatures we incarnate in our dreamscapes.

We are together.

We are wild.

We are free.

We are on the loose.

We dig holes in the dirt.

We dive the depths of the streams.

We wade through the thickets.

We sniff the air.

And, when one of us catches the scent of something good, we all come running.

We gather around.

We jostle for position.

We paw at it. We scratch at it. We peck at it.

We hoot. We grunt. We whoop.

We stomp. We trumpet. We haw.

But, then a caw comes from above.

There’s something worth investigating in the distance.

We are off.

And, once again, we are vaulting, springing, and bounding over the landscape.

What are we looking for?

It does not matter.

Why do we do this?

To be together.

But, we don’t stay together forever.

When the time comes, some spin off and go in their own direction.

But, others always appear to take their place.

We approach.

We extend them an invitation to join us.

One says no.

We leave him behind.

Another says yes.

We leave her behind as well.

She gives chase. That’s good.

She struggles to keep pace. That’s expected. Bi-pedals are slow.

Her brow perspires. Her body aches. And, her breathing grows thick with phlegm.

Her mind screams “Give Up! Give Up! Give Up!”

Her heart whispers “Keep Up. Keep Up. Keep Up.”

And, in their effort to stay abreast, something ignites deep inside the caverns of her heart.

She transforms.

She sheds her submissiveness. She casts off her epidermis. She shakes her mane.

She roars.

She picks up speed. She catches up. She keeps stride with us.

She feels that feeling that binds us together. Keeps us together. Draws us together.

She feels agency.

What does agency feel like?

It feels like limitlessness.

No.

It feels like this song:

 

We were all once captured and caged.

I was caged for almost forty years.

I suckled on the bottle of water hung in the corner of my cage. I nibbled on the uniformly formed food provided by my masters. I was declawed, defanged, and domesticated.

I could even perform tricks.

I looked at others living outside their cages with envious eyes and a jealous heart.

I believed that their existence threatened my existence.

I was wrong.

There existence simply reminded me of my own self-imposed slavery.

I craved another habitat. Our natural habitat.

The place where we feel free to find our funky. Be our funcky.

I craved to be released.

But, I worried.

Is this for me?

Am I worthy?

Will it be okay?

I paced the edges of my cage.

But, over time I learned to trust my instincts, trust my heart, and trust my strengths.

It was an iterative process of finding what works and what does not.

It was a messy process of making mistakes.

I was intentional about the books and music and images I allowed into my life.

I took responsibility for my own captivity.

And, I gave myself permission to leave.

Agency is a gift that we must give to ourselves.

But, it is also a collective process.

I did not realize it alone.

I surrounded myself with people who shared a similar quest – family, friends, colleagues and my students.

Agency is a gift that we can give to each other.

Agency is the outcome gift of Tribal Teaching.

 

Shawn Humphrey, the Blue Collar Professor (www.shawnhumphrey.com)

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