You Are Important
By this point in the flow of the website you should have a good understanding of
what you believe about children
your personal view of what knowledge is and how it is acquired
what the public education system stands for, and
how to navigate the contradictions between policy and pedagogy when it comes to
Knowing who you are, and understanding the system that you work within are two important aspects of being a good educator. But blending this two concepts together will help promote positive change in public education. I want to introduce to you the term critical pedagogy.
I was introduced to this term when Joan Wink's aptly tilted book 'Critical Pedagogy: Notes from the Real World' was shared with me. You know when you start reading something and it just seems like you're reading your own thoughts? This is how I felt about this book. Joan Wink quotes Csikszentmihalyi, that psychologist I mentioned when defining play in step 2. She adores Paulo Freire in a way that I am jealous of. And then, she taught me the term Critical Pedagogy. She refused to define it until I (the reader) had come up with my own definition. The concept wasn't knew to me, but attaching a term to the mishmash that was in my head was a revalation. She asked me to write down my definition before she shared hers on the following page. This is what I wrote down:
To me, critical pedagogy is a simultaneous zoom in and zoom out of the lens on learning. It's a bird's eye view with the necessary lens to zoom in on a certain area while continuing to be zoomed out. It's whole, it's wide and it has pin point accuracy.
The ability to remain in my own shoes but view conflict, policy, actions and beliefs from the shoes of others, free of judgement, is something that I have been striving for throughout the entirety of my conscious life. Putting a term to this idea was inspiring. Here is the definition I was provided when I turned the page
Critical pedagogy is a way of thinking about, negotiating, and transforming the relationship among classroom teachers, the production of knowledge, the institutional structures of the school, and the social and material relations of the wider community, society and nation state.
She took the definition from Peter McLaren's work 'Life in Schools: And Introduction to Critical Pedagogy in the Foundations of Education.' I quickly got my hands on this book as well. It too was a gem, very much attached to Paulo Freire and his 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed.' It is interesting to note that McLaren currently teaches not far from my home. Needless to say, I felt connected and critical pedagogy sure fit right in.
The idea that we can critique education from all vantage points highlights how important the classroom educator really is. Yes, they are only one stakeholder, one pair of shoes, but they have the ability to connect with all of the other stakeholders. It's very unlikely for the Director of Education to sit down with parents in your classroom, but it may be more likely for you to sit down with the director. As educators we have access to all the stakeholders, to all the shoes. It is our responsibility to lead the way. But how?