Thursday, September 09, 2010

How Quickly I Forget

I assigned a short passage from Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed for my first year writing class; it's the section on the banking concept of education and why it's less than ideal. (A lot less.)

And then I was stupidly shocked when some of them complained about how hard it was, and how they didn't understand it, and what were they supposed to do if they didn't understand Latin.

Seriously, I don't know where my brain was when I was reading it, but I didn't register it as something that would cause great difficulty. And I was wrong.

But, it was the perfect piece in a way, because he's all about students not being passive, but really coming to contribute, and so we talked about teachers being responsible for listening and learning, and students being responsible for speaking and teaching, too.

Interestingly, some students made a clear connection between the banking concept and the "No Child Left Behind" testing that they were put through. Coolness.

So, students, if you don't want to be oppressed, get active and take responsibility. And teachers, don't just imagine that you're the font of knowledge, pouring it into your poor students' heads and then hoping they'll spit it forth during a test.

And we talked about how scary it is to give up power, and how it's sometimes also scary to take power because it also means taking responsibility.

What could have been just misery turned into a pretty good discussion. Thanks, Professor Freire!


  1. Anonymous11:31 AM

    I LOVE teaching that, and it always ends up leading to amazing discussions about what education means and what it means to have ownership over one's education and why that matters. You make me sad I'm not teaching! (Well, for like a second, anyway.)

  2. Anonymous12:25 PM

    I always forget what students will have difficulty with, often material I take for granted. Heck,individual words I take for granted.

    With respect to the concept,right now I feel I'm pouring into students' heads right now. I inherited a freshman comp course design, and the early going is really geared to rigidity. On the other hand, I used this course once before, a year ago, and I know it gets more fluid as time goes on. And, based on the essays I've been reading, I feel less queasy about rigidity early on.

    Still, it's not my favorite way to teach, and I'm always battling against my tendencies toward banking. I try my best, and I try to balance the need for some objective criteria with opening the community. I find it a tougher balance than I'd like. I get so energized when I can get out of the way and students teach me.

  3. I love teaching that piece in FY comp, but I sometimes get flustered by students who are so invested in that very banking concept that they insist Freire's article is wrong...that teachers are "supposed to" fill students with information.

  4. In one of my classes last year, I had them keep a glossary on the class wiki -- writing definitions of words they didn't know. Initially they were very hesitant, but then when I asked whether they all really knew the word "infangtheof" they got better. And was I surprised! Lots of words I took for granted...