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The Ecological Heart of Teaching

Radical Tales of Refuge and Renewal for Classrooms and Communities


Edited By Jackie Seidel and David W. Jardine

The Ecological Heart of Teaching is a collection of writings by teachers about their life in classrooms. Reflecting over three years of collective work, it illustrates how teachers, parents, and students can avoid some of the distractions and panic endemic to many schools, allowing them to focus thoughtfully on rigorous, beautiful work. It draws on ecological thinking, Buddhism, and hermeneutics to provide deeper, richer, and more abundant sources for teaching, thinking, and practice, and shows how these three lineages provide keys to decode the current malaise that surrounds schooling. The book will be valuable to beginning and experienced teachers and administrators, as well as to parents and anyone involved in stepping away from the exhausting industrial images and ideas that have turned schooling into an ecological and intellectual disaster. For those interested in interpretive research and life-writing, the book provides a wide array of examples; it is a valuable resource for undergraduate classes in curriculum and teaching, as well as graduate research methods courses interested in new forms of thinking and writing.
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Chapter Twenty-Seven: River Otters and Such


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River Otters AND Such


Last winter I had the good fortune to watch a family of river otters play in the frigid onrushing waters of the Sliammon River, which flows through the Sliammon Reservation into the Salish Sea on the west coast of British Columbia.

So I watch the river otters for a while on this December day, as they chase and wrestle, tumble and intermittently intertwine over large rocks covered in thick, electric-green moss, into pools of smooth, fast running water, and onto the shoreline, dense with tangled vegetation. One otter, free from the group for a short time, and fully submerged, suspends itself midstream, neither progressing nor losing ground. Rather, this lone otter hovers within the water, just beneath the surface, adjusting to the speed of the rapids through the powerful whip action of its long and tapered tail. Of course it’s not all fun and games for the otters as they attend to the business of staying alive, though it is hard to ascertain where the play stops and the work begins. Perhaps there is no difference.

The Sliammon People, whose land this river runs through, have occupied this area, according to myth, shell middens and the Simon Fraser University Archaeology Department, for at least eight thousand years. One would assume that as soon as the great sheets of ice that once covered and shaped these lands retreated,...

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