I was preparing for a job interview for a teaching position for the Fall by reviewing possible interview questions and they, school Admin, always ask questions about your philosophy of education. Vague? Yes. Important? Yes. Impossible to put into words, even for an English teacher? Yes.
Then I remembered one of my favourite books from my BEd in University: Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage. Freire writes about the importance of respect, listening, curiosity, and being open to the idea that as humans we are unfinished. We all have something to learn and because of that, we all have something to share.
In the chapter titled “Teaching is a Human Act,” Freire writes about this idea of being unfinished:
My security does not rest on the false supposition that I know everything or that I am the ‘greatest.’ On the contrary, it rests on the conviction that there are some things I know and some things I do not know. With this conviction it is more likely that I may come to know better what I already know and better learn what I do not yet know. My security is grounded on the knowledge, which experience itself confirms, that I am unfinished. On the one hand, this knowledge reveals to me my ignorance, but on the other hand, it reveals to me that there is much I may still come to know (pg 120).
For me, this idea of being unfinished is part of my philosophy of education: “there is much I may still come to know” (pg 120). Coming into a classroom prepared to learn as a teacher is something that is difficult, especially if you want to set a strict tone. Yet, I believe that coming into the classroom ready to acknowledge unfinishedness leaves room for genuine interactions with students and with other teachers.
Earlier in the week an article was floating around Facebook that caught my attention: “23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert” by Carolyn Gregoire from the Huffington Post website: “23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert.” It’s true that most teachers are in fact introverts (not all), and so reading this article was fun and amusing. Yet one of the lines stood out to me in regards to small talk:
“Let’s clear one thing up: Introverts do not hate small talk because we dislike people,” Laurie Helgoe writes in Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength. “We hate small talk because we hate the barrier it creates between people.”
I think that Freire and teachers completely understand this sentiment around small talk. So, for my philosophy of teaching, being open to genuine dialogues and relationships with students is crucial.
By acknowledging that teachers are unfinished and open to new ideas and thoughts, genuine relationships and meaningful learning happens in the classroom. I believe that Friere is on the right track when he explains that teaching requires humility, yet security in the fact that as humans was are unfinished. Once that fact is realized, then genuine conversations begin to happen in the classroom.
Yet Freire’s ideas and concepts are not only for the classroom. The idea of being secure in unfinishedness and incompleteness is counter-cultural. We all want to be experts and to share and transmit our knowledge to others. I’m not belittling the role of knowledge and intelligence, yet I do think that Freire’s point below should stand in all situations and interactions:
. . . to know how to teach is to create possibilities for the construction and production of knowledge rather than to be engaged simply in a game of transferring knowledge. When I enter a classroom I should be someone who is open to new ideas, open to questions, and open to the curiosities of the students as well as their inhibitions. In other words, I ought to be aware of being a critical and inquiring subject in regard to the task entrusted to me, the task of teaching and not that of transferring knowledge (pg 49).
Being critical and inquiring are two of the most important thought processes that happen in any situation, whether it be watching the news, reading a book, or having a conversation with a friend.
So my thought for the week is over: be present in conversations and situations in order to create genuine interactions through the state of being secure in unfinishedness. Also, my interview is over and I am grateful for Freire and his thoughts around education and how they have influenced my philosophy of education. I got the job.
Closing ourselves to the world and to others is a transgression of the natural condition of incompleteness (pg 121).
In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say (Titus 2:7-8).