February 23, 2012 by k. liz
I’ve been reading Freire again. Just three pages this time, for class, of course. But, three very important pages for teachers. I’ll give you a few excerpts and a few thoughts.
For those new to Freire, he was a Brazilian educator deeply motivated to educate the oppressed in his society. He cared about educating the forgotten and the underprivileged children and adults who had been forgotten by the mainstream culture. As a result of his educational ideals, he was exiled from Brazil. He has written a few books and influenced many to promote an education that does not forget the oppressed or the forgettable. He advocates a democratic classroom that gives value to each student by respecting their ideas, opinions, home culture, and language.
In my opinion, there is a lot to learn from this man. His passion for education is real and strong. My only hesitation is that, in my opinion, education is not the savior of mankind. There is another, greater Savior. I do, however, believe that education is an extremely important facet of people’s lives, and therefore by involving myself in education, I have an opportunity to express love and care to those I am working with.
Now, on to the subconscious conjunctions. I have read articles or heard people talk about philosophies that touch on this before, but I think that is an important concept to be constantly aware of. In chapter three of his book, Pedagogy of Freedom (1998) about how teaching is not simply transferring knowledge. He states:
to know how to teach is to create possibilities for the construction and production of knowledge rather than to be engaged simply in a game of transferring knowledge. When I enter a classroom I should be someone who is open to new ideas, open to questions, and open to the curiosities of the students as well as their inhibitions. In other words, I ought to be aware of being a critical and inquiring subject in regard to the task entrusted to me, the task of teaching and not that of transferring knowledge.
Next, he talks about how this needs to be practiced and experienced so as to become real to the teacher. This is where he introduces something that I want to touch on. He states that without actually practicing this [this being the belief that teaching is not simply transferring knowledge] we become like people who claim to believe or adhere to something, but in reality act differently. He gives the example of a person who claims that they are not racist, but when asked about a black student, they respond with the following:
Yes, I know her. She is black, but she’s a decent soul.
Freire goes on to say,
I’ve never heard anyone say: ‘I know Celia, she is blond with blue eyes, but she’s decent all the same.’
Freire’s point is that, as teachers, our ‘subconscious conjunctions’ (as I’m calling them) reveal what we really think. I know that I am getting caught up in the tangent or example (if you have read the book), but I think that it’s important. How do I talk about my students, or even more importantly, how do I think about them?
I admit, I have the student that I help through the activities, because I don’t expect him to be able to do them alone. The student that I think, “Yes, everyone else can do this, but I’ll go and help . . .” What is that? Is that teaching? Is that really enabling the student to go further tomorrow? Is that meeting him where he is and guiding him onward, or is that spoon-feeding him so that he will end up staying in the same place until someone better comes along that believes in him?
I have a lot of thoughts jumbled up right now. I don’t have clear objectives in my current position, and I am finding it hard to plan and work towards objectives as I want to. I generally feel like I’m failing when I don’t plan activities or map out how I am going to do things. But, even if I am not doing everything I’d like to do on paper, I have the opportunity to rid myself of my conjunctions. I have the opportunity to lay aside what the guidance counselor or other teachers have said about a child, and let him know that I believe he can succeed.
So, I guess in summary, I’d say that I believe it is extremely important to evaluate our thought patterns, prejudices, and unquestioned beliefs about students, people in general, practices, etc. Whether we realize it or not, a lot of us have subconscious conjunctions that reveal our true thoughts. I’m not saying that they are necessarily wrong just because they are there, I’m saying that they require evaluation and determination to decide if they actually should be there.