Lessons Learned on the Navajo Nation

As I near the end of an amazing two-part adventure (5 more days, but who’s counting?), I reflect on what I have learned.  Part one of the adventure was living on the Navajo Nation.  Part two was my first foray into teaching at a public school.  Both adventures taught me much.

Living on the Navajo Nation provided many lessons:

  1. Government dependency can lead to poverty (40% of the Navajo people fall below the poverty level) and high unemployment rates (60-75% on the Navajo Nation, depending on the source).  From my observations living among the Navajo, both poverty and unemployment can be directly attributable to government dependency.
  2. While the Navajo people are amazing, bright, and resourceful, a very high percentage of them are bored, depressed, and in poor health.  Diabetes is epidemic among Native Americans.  An estimated one in eight will get the disease (thanks, largely, to commodity foods).
  3. The Navajo are losing their language.  In nine months, while walking through the hallways, being in the cafeteria, having students in my classes, and other observations – I never heard any two students speaking to each other in any language other than English.  I do know that many of them know how to speak Navajo, because that’s the only language some of their grandparents speak, so they must speak Navajo to communicate with the grandparents.

Teaching in a public school taught me more than I taught the students:

  1. Public schools are in trouble.
  2. The source of the trouble is debatable, but I suggest that government dependency is again one source.
  3. Standardization, lack of self-discipline, and poor discipline practices are other sources, in my opinion.
  4. The last, and possibly most damaging source of the problem is the lack of parenting skills.

Hopefully, I learned some things from my adventures that will help me be a part of the solution to these serious problems.

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