Casey and Sonia Lead a Lesson

Something that has made the WAYK Summer Intensive special for me is the role of teaching. Before WAYK, I had a lot of misconceptions regarding what it is to teach. Most importantly, I never really considered myself a “teacher.” Even in situations where I was quite literally teaching another person something, I would consider myself more of a tutor. I thought I lacked whatever teacher-y thing teachers had, especially the license to call myself an authority on a topic. Since joining WAYK this summer, I’ve realized that whatever I thought I needed, I already possess just by knowing something. That’s how I came to be a “teacher” by my second week here. Once I was no longer the newest person in the group learning Unangam Tunuu, I had some knowledge I was capable of sharing, and another person looking at me to share it.

I have spent so much of my life in a traditional classroom, which is how I gained my second “teaching” misconception, that the roles of student and teacher are mutually exclusive. I hadn’t thought much beyond the phrase “The best way to learn is to teach,” to really consider the fact that just because someone was teaching doesn’t mean that they couldn’t also be learning, or vice versa. After beginning to learn chinuk wawa in the WAYK house and being (along with Robyn) the least experienced speaker for a few weeks, I got a chance to help a visitor do her first chinuk hunt with Evan. For the first time, I could make judgments about where the hunt was heading and do what I could to make the Set Ups keep up with the language as they progressed. Even when Robyn or I sometimes end up figuring out a certain piece of chinuk earlier than the other, we are immediately capable of help each other catch up, through building more Set Ups, or modeling a conversation using the language piece with Sky, Evan, or Susanna.

The last piece of being a teacher is the skill of how to take something from inside my brain and give it to someone else in a way they will understand. This is the only part of being a teacher that I didn’t necessarily have before joining WAYK, which, conveniently is one of WAYK’s major selling points. Every technique makes the work easier for “students” and “teachers” to communicate. Asking if someone needs something “Again, Three Times, or Finished?” allows the teacher of the moment to only repeat information as needed, without the student getting lost or bored. Every technique is created to keep the exchange of information rolling longer and more smoothly, in a way that could apply any kind of teaching. Anyone with a bit of knowledge and a couple of techniques under his/her belt is equipped to be a WAYK teacher, just like anybody who could stand to learn a bit more about anything is ready to be a WAYK learner.

Post authored by Casey.

Written by Evan Gardner