In “Teaching As An Act of Love: The Classroom and Critical Praxis,” Antonia Darder (2002) draws from Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and the concept of teaching as an act of love is directly connected to educators who have passion for teaching to the extent that they may have had a lifelong dream to teach.
As a child I would always hear, “wait until you experience the real-world,” and it was my understanding that the real-world experience would occur post my undergraduate college experience or upon entering the working world as an adult. Because I was conditioned to think of the real world in this way, I sustained that same pattern of thought. As an adult, I found myself repeating the same thing to younger generations: “wait until you experience the real world.” With a passion to teach in higher education, I intended to influence the next generation by preparing them for—you guessed it—the real world. Friere’s perspective is that “anywhere where human beings are congregated and engaged in relations of power (as they are in schools) constitutes a real-world experience” (p. 98). Friere is absolutely right! I think somewhere in my mind I envisioned higher education as a microcosm of real-world experiences that encompass greater risks to our quality of life. The lack of consideration for higher ed as the real-world can impact the lens students use in learning new knowledge—students not forming their own connections between lessons and applicability of those lessons to their lives. Perhaps as instructors, we are working harder to incorporate “real-world applications” because we demarcated the academy from the rest of the world.
I am excited about Friere’s work because he demystifies ideologies we live by as pedagogues. Unfortunately, he made recommendations and expressed concerns with oppressive pedagogy over 50 years ago, and we have still managed to maintain these bad habits as standards. For example, earlier in the semester, we read Ellen Langer’s (2000) “Mindful Learning,” which discussed an approach where learning is framed as fun using play as a teaching method. Friere refutes learning as only fun in that students will face difficult concepts and educators should be prepared to support difficult moments. Essentially, learning isn’t consistently experienced as fun, which aligns with a real-world experience—-life isn’t always fun. We face challenges and ideally, we’re prepared to face them. As educators, we can help students understand how to manage the ebbs and flows of our reality because academia is the real-world. In critical pedagogy, I grasped the importance of embracing humanity in our experiences to meet the real needs of our students. Our pedagogy affects our student’s real lives.
Darder, A. (2002). Teaching as an act of love: The classroom and critical praxis. Reinventing Paulo Freire: A pedagogy of love, 91-149.
Langer, E. J. (2000). Mindful learning. Current directions in psychological science, 9(6), 220-223.