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Monthly Archives: October 2012

I can only faintly remember most of my classes in high school.  What content I learned in them is mostly a mystery, but as we are reading in Kumashiro, a whole lot of learning occurs beyond what we are teaching.  How we reward certain behaviours, tolerate some, and punish others is all part of what we are teaching our students.  The more we read this book, the more I feel as though there is no possible way to teach without oppressing some student in some way by what we say, don’t say, teach, and don’t teach.  I suppose that’s why we heard last week that “you will never become an anti-oppressive teacher. Rather you are always becoming an anti-oppressive teacher.”

This makes sense, as the idea of being a life-long learner requires one to always attempt to move forward, attempting, learning, and reflecting, never reaching an imaginary finish line.  Similarly, when he discusses the notion of queer theory, he speaks about locating the norms of society and why these norms are problematic.  From there, we ought to be challenging and disrupting the status quo of these norms where eventually what was once the alternative, or queer, becomes the norm, and always repeating the process to work towards a less oppressive state.  I agree with evolution of a teacher and person never being over and there is always progress to be made, but taken to the extreme, I wonder if there is a danger in the logic of always locating oppression and making that which is oppressed, free of such treatment.  Who gets to define oppression? Physical or verbal abuse? Is it government sanctions? Un-vocalized moral disagreements? Does then being “oppressed” automatically mean it should replace the norms of society?

I don’t know! Possibly I’m just not comfortable with the unknown of where that might take us if consistently adhered to. I’m not trying to trash on Kumashiro.  I am just trying to look at these chapters with a critical eye.  In fact, I am finding his ideas very challenging and they are helping me look at how I will teach from so many perspectives that I end up at my original worry at the beginning of this post. How can I possibly do this teaching thing well?

This week Kumashiro talks about a discussion on four proposed ways of learning for students in school.  “Good teachers” and “bad teachers” meaning the student’s empty brain either gets filled with content, or doesn’t (for whatever reason). “Learning in comforting ways”, where students are not seen as blank slates and bring in a whole mess of beliefs, understanding of knowledge, etc, but are allowed to learn what already affirms their previous ideas and disregard those that resisted with them.  The last method is “learning in discomforting ways”.  This involves challenging the knowledge already held by the student, deconstructing, criticizing, and questioning and realizing that their and the schools’ knowledge is only partial requiring further investigation and more uncomfortable work.  This sort of rubs me the wrong way. Kumashiro says many of his students also felt the same.  A school should be a safe, supportive environment, not a place where students have everything tipped on its head resulting in a frowny face (see crude model on p. 25), but I get where he’s coming from.  In order to teach social justice to a point where real awareness, real change, and real action can occur, there may be some uncomfortable feelings along the way.  However, I think teachers need to be sensitive of the level of discomfort they stir up.  They can easily turn students off and may lose them completely.  But then if you tip toe around issues, I can see less chance for successful transformational teaching.  Still thinking about this one.