Archive for October, 2015

Surprise! Freire is Still Relevant

Reading through some of Freire’s thoughts and ideas and hearing them from him in an interview has been interesting.  Critical thinking and moving away from the sage on the stage views of education have been going on since I started grad school. Rarely though does this come up in class.  Frequently this is what I hear seasoned veteran professors talking about.  “Talking” is a nice way to put it.   I have always heard how the incoming classes have no capacity for critical thinking.  Only recently have I heard them share the little nuances that make their classes more successful.  Things like letting your personality shine through in you courses.

Mostly though, this banking model of education is interesting.  I have always thought it is such a shame that students are so busy that they can only “learn” material for a test.  So much of the curiosity that compels us to explore is squashed under the pressure of learning for the test.  I think that many courses still employ the banking model.  I have always thought about it as the “bucket theory.”  Where every exam grade requires one specific bucket worth of information to be regurgitated by the student in an ordered fashion that fits the exam.  In filling their own bucket before such exams the students have isolating themselves to that task singularly.  That is to say, they are only capable of fitting one specific goal into their span of attention, and when the bucket has been emptied, the student is left with a void.  Not a knowledge base, a starting point, a different perspective, just a bucket that has been filled and emptied to satisfy grade requirements.

I want to learn more about Freire and what helped him to become so much more aware of what is going on in the current classroom models, especially because I too think of myself as curious.

Ms. Mac and Her Fight for Inclusion

“Ms. Mac” is how she wanted us to refer to her.  She was one of these energetic people that, now that I think about it, was visibly passionate about teaching.  I had her for our state level “social studies” course in middle school.  I remember two things that she told us.

1) ‘Never fill out the space next to “Race / Ethnicity” on your standardized tests.’

2) “I will never put a false  “true / false” question on on a test.  I don’t want to put false information into student’s heads!”

This was probably my first foray into diversity and inclusion.  Being from a slightly rural area (High school less than 1,000 students), diversity for us translated into race.  Back to Ms. Mac.  She was from the low country of South Carolina where she and her classmates had been involved in the Briggs v Elliot Supreme Court Case that was handled as one of the five included in the infamous Brown v Board of Education case.  For her, education had been a fight to be included… at all.  She was quite the fighter.  Her teaching passion may have arisen from having to fight for the same educational opportunities that could be found in the “whites only” schools.  She grew up in a system that could use racial profiling and standardized tests to make a case against her and the “blacks only” schools she attended.  I think that when she warned us about this profiling she was thinking about Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan who dissented against his peers in cases of “separate but equal.”  He said that “Our Constitution is color-blind…“, something I heard in Vendantam’s NPR interview.  Our society would prefer to handle diversity as though we were all blind to color.  While that would be great if we could all just be considered people, Vendantam suggests that it is not enough.  In reading about our “hidden brain” it certainly makes sense that dominance of media by one group or another would create a societal norm that even a 3 year old could detect.  I don’t know what will have to come next to disrupt these norms but I think we are making progress, slowly but surely.  We can’t all have someone as exuberant as Ms. Mac, but we might be sitting beside someone who is just as interesting…  Our role as educators should foster cultural learning through inclusive practices.  To do otherwise would be denying our students the chance to learn outside of their own norms.


As for Ms. Mac’s second thought, she would have loved arguing with a few of my professors about critical thinking and teaching!

“Nah, I was Listening”

Sorry, but I fall asleep like in lectures like it was my job.  I don’t think it’s just being an abnormally large human in a tiny seat or anything do to with the lecture but…

Temperature:  yeah, that does it for me.

Too hot; out

Too cold; out

It keeps changing though.  I can be psyched about a class and have a lecturer put me under within a few minutes.  I had the professor who half tried to “change up” their lectures with jokes, meh…  I do like the ideas in the change up article and can definitely identify with the over observed students described within.  But staring down the barrel of my own upcoming lectures I am less willing to give up my time with the students to change it up and lose ground in the material.  I do have ideas, and an advantage.  I am going to teach a class I have taken and TAed for in the past, so I know where the sleeper sections are.  After a while I think I can sprinkle enough variety into our lectures together that I can keep people guessing and waiting for more.  Grinding through survey courses or highly specialized ones seems like it would be most difficult to change up.  Hopefully my experiences of being a- student for too long will serve as a benefit to my own students.  Remembering the burden of sitting through the lectures should be reminder enough that a course is not something that anyone should have to suffer through.

-Change up and wake up