This past Wednesday, BottomUp hosted an evening workshop for local school teachers with the title: Critical PedagogyWith guest presenter, Amelia Simone-Herbert leading our time together it was a fun, interactive and thoroughly absorbing and informative time of learning and reflecting together on different aspects of education. 

The Presenter

Amelia Simone-Herbert is a PhD student at Columbia University which is a teacher’s college. She is currently a Fullbright Fellow and doing her Dissertation Research with LEAP schools in Cape Town.Amelia clearly is a woman who knows her stuff and had such an engaging manner and facilitated both teaching and conversation in a way that drew everyone in and created space for different voices to be heard and engaged with.  

The Workshop

The session took place on Wed 22nd August at the Parkwood Tech Center at Parkwood Primary school from 3 to 5pm.As teachers arrived they were greeted with some amazing snacks and given name tags and then asked to write down on a card their answer to the question: What is the purpose of education?

They were also invited to join a Teacher’s Reading Group where interested members will read through key educational texts together and then meet and discuss and engage around them.

Take a Stand

Next up was a thought-provoking activity called ‘Take a Stand’ where Amelia put a series of different statements on the screen and we had to vote with our bodies whether we agreed or disagreed – and we HAD to pick one side – and then walk to that side of the room. Then we were asked to engage with someone who had chosen the same answer as us and talk about why we had said that.What was key with this activity was that you were not allowed to sit on the fence. And during the activity, there was not so much a sense of which answer was right or wrong but it was more about understanding why you and others made the decisions you made. Some of them were fairly easy but some of them were very tricky to take sides on. But it was helpful being able to explain and listen to others reasons for choosing.The statements we were given were:

# Education is Political

And the answer was to either AGREE or DISAGREE with the statement and then walking to the side of the room which illustrated your answer.

# Education should prepare people to adapt to the world as it is

# Education is a tool of oppression

# Education is a tool of liberation

# The teacher should have the power in a classroom

# In a classroom the teacher gives knowledge and the students receive knowledge

# Both the teacher and the students in a classroom must be learners

# Teaching is less about talking and more about listening

As you read down that list, maybe take a moment to reflect on what YOUR answers might be for each of them. Some of them I found I had a gut feel answer to, but then a moment later as I thought a little bit deeper about it my answer changed. Sometimes my answers changed listening to other people’s explanations…

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Next up was an overview of the book ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ written by Paulo Freire. Most of the people in the room seemed to have read the book already and so Amelia shared some thoughts on the book which then provided the framework for the rest of our time together.‘Power comes from risking ourselves in creation.’ [Paulo Freire]One thing I found particularly helpful was when Amelia put up a timeline highlighting some of the key events that were happening in the world when the book came out. Things like the Vietnam war, the year that Martin Luther King Jnr was assassinated, student protests around the world [particularly in France], the Biafran war in Nigeria and the black power salute by Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the Olympic games that year.Also mentioned, which I hadn’t known, was that this book was banned at one time in South Africa by the apartheid government.Amelia touched on some of the key concepts of the book which include: Critical Pedagogy, Politics, Banking Education vs Problem-solving Education, Conscientisation, Dialogue, Praxis and the Co-construction of knowledge.

Banking Education vs Problem-Posing Education

Next up, Amelia took us through a look at the contrast between Banking Education and Problem-posing Education which made a lot of sense – and I think would to most people – but the one is what we grew up with and the idea of ‘how it’s always been done’ and the other requires someone switching the light on for you but once you’ve seen it, it is impossible to unsee. Some examples of the distinction between the two are as follows:

= = = = = = = =

# Banking Education: Students simply “receive, file and store deposits from the teacher”

# Problem-Posing Education: Deposit-making is replaced with the posing of problems of human beings in their relations with the world.

= = = = = = = =

# Banking Education: Knowledge is a gift bestowed by the those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider know nothing.

# Problem-Posing Education: Students are not docile learners and both teacher and student can give and receive in the exchange of knowledge.

= = = = = = = =

#Banking Education: Students never discover that they educate the teacher.

#Problem-Posing Education: Joint responsibility for a learning process in which all grow.

= = = = = = = =

#Banking Education: Resists Dialogue

#Problem-Posing Education: Regards dialogue as indispensible

Close-Read Carousel

Finally, we walked around the room reading quotes from Freire that Amelia had stuck up on the walls. We were invited to examine and dissect them in groups as we gathered around the different quotes. The instructions were as follows:

Read each quote

Circle confusing terms

Underline parts you agree with

Place an asterisk where you disagree

Use sticky notes to write comments or questions

How does what you read relate to your own education practice?