Just because you have knowledge about a subject doesn’t mean you know how to teach it
Access to knowledge is a privilege and how it is conveyed is power. The assumption that once you have completed a degree in education/related disciplines, you have also obtained the skills to teach is false.
Degrees do not equate to understanding how to teach. Many educators complete their program and are unable to teach effectively. There are many reasons for this: the lack of training to teach, the lack of understanding of the audience (the student body), and the lack of empathy (intercultural skills) for the subject being taught.
All in all, understanding how to teach involves understanding one’s “life cards.” I use this term to refer to elements we are automatically born into and with, and how these factors influence how we approach our teaching and our perception of the material being taught.
For example, no one asked your permission if you wanted to be biologically born a “girl” or a “boy”, just like no one asked your permission to be born into a particular religion. It is important to understand that these features are our life stamps, and influence teaching methods and practices by the educator.
|Our school systems are far from perfect …
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Brazilian philosopher Paolo Freire argues the need to unveil historical and current roles and social positionalities. According to him, these are critical components to understanding the social capital leading to discursive practices within the educational system.
Rather than just being given and memorizing information, people contribute their experiences to the learning process. It is about developing a new conscientization. Conscientization is an emancipatory pedagogical process developed by Freire designed to teach students, through critical literacies, how to negotiate the world in a thoughtful way that exposes and engages the relations between the oppressor and the oppressed.
Western University’s Jacqueline Specht found that when teachers are comfortable with the use of appropriate pedagogy and believe that all students can learn and should be included in heterogeneous classrooms, they create comprehensive and more inclusive practices.
Fundamentally, such growth requires new teaching standards to better support future teachers’ practices. According to Concordia University’s Tim Loreman, Alberta pre-service teachers had concerns about successfully practicing in the inclusive classroom and accommodating students’ learning diversity. Yet, he argues, those concerns have not always been addressed by teacher education programs.
New programs are required to incorporate all-encompassing-oriented values and practices in the curricula so all teachers can positively respond to students’ diversity and contribute to opposing marginalization and stigmatization.
Unless educators reflect on these elements, unintentional harm may occur. Educators have the power to determine how classroom materials are disseminated to students. Little attention is given to the degree of “power” associated with teaching and its misuse or lack of awareness.
It is essential educators operate within the following elements:
|a) Social positionality
|b) Social reflectivity
|c) The audience
|Educators must be humble with this authority and empathize with the material being taught and the students
Connecting with material rather than viewing it as an external object
|Reflect on your own life cards and how this may impact how you teach. This is an ongoing process
|Understand how the current generation communicates. How can the audience relate to the material being taught
|Understand how this power is conveyed through your teaching material
|Reflect on your own knowledge – new knowledge – you don’t know it all!
|Apply techniques that meet the current needs of the students.
By recognizing the discursive space that power occupies within academia, we can define how knowledge is produced and reproduced locally and internationally. The state in which we study social events, interactions, and patterns should be done from a lens of empathy, not superiority,
The classroom is a place to cultivate critical knowledge. In the philosophical sense, I would argue that it is a potentially subversive intellectual path leading to a transgression of knowledge production and abstract thoughts.
|Current Problems in Academia
|Omission of particular content in school curriculums. Omitting information whether it be through literature or the curriculum, influences our perception of reality as truth
|Requires the development of a new consciousness so that all students, staff and educators can participate organizationally in the absence of harm
|Efforts to rectify inequities have yet to produce sustained positive change, institutionally, and individually
|Administering a series of integrated mindfulness workshops that center lived experiences whilst recognizing the role of the system in maintaining the status quo
|A lack of sustainable avenues
|Incorporating and building longer-term sustainable partnerships with various grassroots organizations in the school curriculum
We need to reform the education system so that it considers the diverse student population. This provides space for open dialogue, validation of students, and engagement in learning.
Part of the journey is acknowledging that we, as educators. are also in an ongoing process of learning how to teach and adapt our teaching materials. We are held up to a standard of “knowing it all,” and this arrogance can be detrimental to students. Educators must continue to learn and adjust to various forms of teaching. Some educators who impose their power seem to forget that they, too, are agents of a system. Teaching is an art form requiring creativity to transfer this knowledge to students.
Teaching cannot be “top-down”. It must be linear. It must embrace changing the policies and procedures already set in place. The voices of the student community should be incorporated, respected, and heard.
Karine Coen-Sanchez is a PhD candidate at the University of Ottawa. Her areas of study are Communities, Culture, Education, Equality and Inequality, Migration Immigration, Organizations, Policy and Society, Politics and Social Movements, Social Structure, Social Theory and the Sociology of Knowledge.
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