I’ve always felt passionate about teaching, reflecting on my own process, and striving to improve the content and experience of coursework. I’ve always strongly believed that education is crucial to critical inquiry, personal growth, social responsibility and societal change, but I’d never read about Paulo Freire directly (although I suspect I have read devotees of his work).
Freire’s assertion that teaching is a political act that can lead to liberation (economic, political, social, emotional and mental) is inspiring and empowering for teachers. My hope is always to create a classroom environment where students have those nearly tangible ah-ha movements, but it is hard to know if the practical, day-to-day classroom experience is fostering critical engagement. In the video interview with Freire, I think he gets to the heart of his pedagogical belief: eternal curiosity must nurtured. Curiosity — the asking of why, how and so what? — is a radical act that challenges the dominate culture. He remarks that he, too, has remained curious in old age. This calls for teacher to remain curious students, open to the process of lifelong learning as our teacherly, scholarly, personal selves continue to grew.
belle hooks adds to this conversation, suggesting that teachers who are in tune to society at large and are humane will help students question and challenge the dominant, oppressive socio-political structures in their lives. Students can help change the world, but first we have to see each of them as unique, individual, human. I began this semester giving myself a pass on learning my students’ names. I’ve ALWAYS done this in classes that were much smaller, but this time around I thought, “I’m in school too. Learning their names is less important than connecting with them. Just let it go.” But a month in, I felt a disconnect with them, and I think it might have been emanating from me. For me, putting forth the effort to know their names is one way I build a relationship. So, I started learning their names. In a class of 38, it has taken me some time, but I can do it (and I’m really bad with names). In the future, if I teach larger classes, I might have to find ways to better connect with students in a different way, but, for me, asking their name and calling on them in a personal way seems to remain crucial.
Ultimately Kinchloe states that some teachers depoliticize and water-down Freire’s work, focusing on the self-directed aspects. Others focus more on the political nature, ignoring the need for deep scholarly engagement. I can identify moments in my own teaching experience where I’ve run the gamut of this polarities, but giving them a context helps me to better navigate between them. Sign me up, I want to be a card-carrying member of Freirean Pedagogy.