Teachers and Learners – Critical Pedagogy

So many topics covered in the reading this week from Freire and hooks.  Some interesting ideas and concepts.  One that stood out to me was the concept of teachers as learners.  This is something I’ve thought a lot about during my time teaching.  We focus a lot on helping students to develop open minds and to think critically but we don’t talk as often about how to help teachers keep and open mind.  We often fall into the “banking concept” discussed by Freire where teachers are simply trying to fill the minds of students like an empty receptacle rather than actually teaching them.  Teachers can fall into the trap of thinking they know everything because that’s kind of how the banking concept is set up.  This ends up restricting learning and discouraging critical thinking because analytical questions from students are seen as a challenge to a teacher’s authority and traditional pedagogy.  Or they can be viewed as distractions from the syllabus that the teacher has worked so hard to stick to.  As teachers, we need to work to overcome that mentality.  As we view ourselves as facilitators of learning rather than just someone filling a bucket with facts, I think we open ourselves and our students to more meaningful learning experiences.  And a more enjoyable experience as well.

I have been amazed at how many times I’ve been explaining a concept to someone, even a concept that I’m pretty familiar with, when suddenly a lightbulb goes off and I understand something totally new about the concept.  Sometimes that’s triggered by a question from the person I’m teaching and sometimes it’s simply triggered by the process of explaining what I think I know to someone else and having to vocalize those thoughts.  Either way, I find it incredible how much we can learn while teaching.  This is why group work and group discussions are so useful.  I have been impressed by professors who have been willing to learn while they teach.  We’ll be having discussion in class and someone will pose a question that they may not know the answer to.  Rather than taking this as a challenge to their authority, we have been able to turn these questions into interesting discussions and learn together.  Seeing a professor be open to questions and discussion, I believe, encourages students to engage and think critically and to become more involved in the learning process.  Perhaps we can do a better job encouraging our students to be teachers and our teachers to be learners and maybe we’ll all learn something from each other.