We've noticed a strange phenomenon while explaining Aboriginal ways of knowing to teachers. Often, their brains will suddenly shut down for some reason, and they will completely lose the basic ability to figure out simple things on their own. This isn't just because it's new knowledge - even the most disengaged teacher has at least two strategies for dealing with unfamiliar content:

(a) Google it.
(b) Tell the students to find it out.

Those strategies are just automatic, even if you ask a drama teacher to deliver a unit on quantum physics. But for some reason, even these simple steps fly out the window when you ask teachers to consider Aboriginal ways of knowing and learning. We've had teachers go through detailed training and planning sessions, and still ask, "But how do I do it?" We present dozens of examples, and then they stare blankly at us and say, "I don't understand - can you show me some examples?"

Don't worry if this happens to you. It's not brain damage - it's just your colonised identity throwing up a wall in your head to protect itself. Whether that identity is based on privilege or victimhood, Aboriginal or settler consciousness - those colonial discourses are powerful and they have installed emergency shut-down switches in your brain. Any time you consider Aboriginal culture as something other than primitive, simple, dying-out, savage - your whole brain will suddenly switch to safe-mode.

If this happens, don't panic or beat yourself up. Just remind yourself of the two fall-back strategies:
(a) google it.
(b) Tell the students to find it out.

For an example we'll give you the absolute worst case scenario. Your principal tells you to teach a science lesson by the end of the week that utilises "Aboriginal reasoning strategies". Your brain immediately shuts down, but somehow you remember the word "Google". You crawl to the computer and realise you no longer have the ability to read more than a paragraph, so you do an image search, which turns up a basic model of an Aboriginal reasoning process. You also find a western scientific reasoning model, and you manage to copy and paste them side by side, like this:

cog11.JPGcog111.JPG
................Aboriginal Reasoning Process ..........................Western Scientific Reasoning Process........................

Unfortunately the effort has exhausted you, so you now sleep for twelve hours. When you wake up you have forgotten all about it and can now function properly again. You begin to run a regular science class, where the students are conducting an experiment and recording observations. Suddenly you see the print-out from last night on your desk, with the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal reasoning models. Your brain shuts down again and you are in danger of losing control of your class, but you dig deep and remember the second safe-mode strategy - get the students to find it out.

So you pass the diagrams on to them, and point out the way their experiment matches the diagram on the right. Then you tell them that the diagram on the left is an Aboriginal reasoning model, and get them in groups to make sense of it, look up any words they don't understand, and then try to repeat the experiment using that thinking process instead.

Afterwards, you allow the students to compare the two experiments - the processes, results and conclusions. There are some very interesting statements made, and during the course of the discussion your brain comes back on and you are even able to contribute some thoughts to the discussion yourself!

So, in the worst case scenario demanding specialised and complex knowledge, you have applied the most basic of strategies and still been able to produce a productive, on-topic lesson with Aboriginal perspectives. Perhaps now you can build on those basic strategies and even include some community consultation. Once again, baby steps. Start by yarning with old Aunty down the road. She might talk about fishing at the bend yesterday, and instead of saying "did you get a big one", you might ask her about her thinking process in deciding to fish in that place at that time. You begin to find out about local Aboriginal reasoning processes that you can apply to your next class...

Please consider this little story a debugging device for educators whose mental software has become infected by a colonial virus (which self-activates automatically upon installation of an Indigenous knowledge program).