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The Ecological Heart of Teaching

Radical Tales of Refuge and Renewal for Classrooms and Communities

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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 Thirty-Five: Nani

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CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

Nani

NEELAM MAL



My grandmother had twelve children. Eleven boys and one girl, my mother. We three are the only ones out of her twenty-five grandchildren that don’t call her Bebe. Be-be is heavy, it sits with greater weight on your lips and tongue before being pushed out with your breath. Anita, Ajay and I get Nani. Na-ni starts heavy but then is lifted by the lightness of the second syllable. Easier to sing “Nani” and make her playful.

There is nothing delicate or graceful about my Nani. She is a woman who started working and never stopped—as a child, as a young bride, as a mother and as a widow. Nobody knows when she was born, either the date or the year. Her doctor suspects she’s in her mid-eighties based on bone density tests (carbon dating?). She was born into poverty in India, married young and eventually moved to England. Her husband, my Nana, died when their twelfth child was still a baby. She speaks very little English. She doesn’t read or write any language. She has already buried half of her children. Ours is not the sweet gentle granny rocking in her chair, knitting. This woman is tough—it shows on her face, in her words, in her very breath. She is our strong and unyielding matriarch.

Nani has thick, heavy hands. She once tried to teach me how to...

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