One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child. — Carl Jung

To inspire lasting growth in learners we have to tend to the roots of each individual student (their whole being emotionally, culturally, and physically speaking) and cultivate the soil in which they find themselves (the spaces in which they learn, live, and socialize). As pedagogical ecologists, we’re not concerned with “filling vessels,” or “fashioning models,” or even “planting seeds” for that matter; instead we’re committed to the work of strengthening and nourishing roots that, for each learner, are always already there.

Education is a deterritorializing process where students are invited to become, to develop, and to unfold in ways that challenge any (and all) models or hierarchies—much like roots will do no matter how fortified or demarcated a foundation or territory (pre)tends to be. This is why we believe our approach to be radical—just as the word’s origin comes from the Latin radix meaning “root.”  

We’re radical in that our pedagogy is committed to being culturally responsive— tending to what Zaretta Hammond describes as each student’s three levels of cultural identity, a concept she explains by using the metaphor of a tree. Not only do we want our learning experiences to reflect back to students who they are on the surface of things (the tree’s trunk, branches, and foliage) but also who they are at the very roots of their identity, culturally and individually. For this reason, rooted education is actively anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic, anti-ablist, and anti-classist.

Rooted pedagogy is radical in that it’s committed to emancipatory practices as well. Jacques Rancière defines emancipation as the idea “that every common person might conceive [their] human dignity, take the measure of [their] intellectual capacity, and decide how to use it” (The Ignorant Schoolmaster 17). That’s why our practice is rooted in the following non negotiables:

  1. All students are intelligent and capable of learning anything.
  2. “Whoever teaches without emancipation stultifies. Whoever emancipates doesn’t have to worry about what the emancipated person learns” (Rancière 18). Let them grow!

These are axiomatic starting points, not outcomes—a reality we commit to at the outset to make possible a process where learners become powerfully rooted and richly fecund intellectuals, thinkers, and doers.  We also understand rooted education to be a deeper kind of learning in that the skills we cultivate in partnership with students are transferable to other contexts both in school and more importantly in the real world.

All students are intelligent, and all students can learn anything. The educator’s calling is to awaken what we know to be unmistakably in them, to tap into the very root of who they are.  We have no desire to plant or root out ideas in students to make them in our likeness: We want students to discover who they already are, as well as what they can become, and to take responsibility for it. We created this site to work together as teachers—to tend to the soil so to speak—in order to make this radical approach to learning both possible and fruitful.

Image Credit: Dominique Chappard