Pratt Essay

          Everyone is always interested in who the ‘winner’ is and who the ‘loser’ is. When teachers invite their own strategies into their classroom this may be viewed as a ‘win’ – right? After all, they have had a more extensive educational background, which probably brings along more real-life experiences – right? Maybe not… Perhaps a teacher who uses their own strategies is taking away from the learning experience. What if a teacher is actually depriving students of “intellectual spaces” instead of providing an environment for higher learning?

            Mary Louise Pratt poses an interesting situation. She believes that because the classroom can vary in so many ways that a systemized form of teaching was created, thus taking the teacher’s ability to use their own strategies away from them. Basically, she believes that the government, or any other higher from of authority, took ‘education’ and (essentially) turned it into a form of communism – they made each classroom equal. They took the culture of education and made it into a mold; taking away different ‘communities’, or rather as I see it, areas of emphasis. If you can compare education to a culture (culture being a system of shared beliefs, values, ideas, and religion), then one can understand how there are areas within a culture that act as communities (the variety of subjects in school) that add emphasis and help round out the culture as a whole.

            I can see the issues with both sides of the problem. While some teachers may have very good points of view on particular subjects, others may not. If teachers were allowed to use whatever material they wished curriculum would be inconsistent and virtually useless. How would we know if students were learning the skills they needed if textbooks and resources were left up to the teacher? Of course, if it’s placed on lockdown too much, students would be left with nothing but dry, hard-to-get-through material, which they would not enjoy. I feel as if I can relate to each side of this problem because I’ve experienced it on each extreme.

            My junior year of high school was a rather interesting one. At the start of the second semester I was given a new math teacher, Mr. Thompson. I heard he was a little eccentric, but I wasn’t entirely sure just how ‘fun’ he could be. Sure – I’d seen him walking down the halls at lunch with a cart full of candy and small toys often found inside piñatas, usually tossing them at will to anyone he saw. But I just thought, “Oh cool! This guy must really love students”. Yes, he most certainly did. He loved students so much, that all he wanted to do with them was socialize. He felt that class time was best spent ‘discussing math’ rather than actually teaching us how to work through equations. And by ‘discussing math’, I mean “let’s spend the entire hour and half talking about the latest prank he played on the teacher down the hall”. Oh yes, I joke with you not. My poor sign language teacher, Mrs. White, who is severely OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), went to her classroom one morning to find her entire desk wrapped in saran wrap, in the center of the room, with all the desks splaying from it ask if they were sun rays. The worst part of all: glitter! It was everywhere. You can imagine how spending each class period like this, talking useless banter about others, was essentially pointless. It was hard to attend class knowing I wouldn’t be learning. It was difficult to go home and read an algebra two textbook and teach it to myself. Luckily, I had many friends in calculus who loved to help me out.

            Mr. Thompson had the sort of power that allowed him to utilize his classroom in whichever way he saw fit. He was given the ability to maximize performance in his students, give them all that they needed, bring in additional resources aside from the school district assigned textbook, and create activities that would best fit the learning styles of his students. However, he chose to let the child within him control this precious classroom time. So you can see how many feel that this power ought to be taken from the teachers. Too many teachers, like Mr. Thompson, are destroying the educational community by taking away what’s being directly given to them.

            At the same time, during my sophomore year of high school, I had a fantastic biology teacher, Mr. Whiles. This was the class that I looked forward to each day. We almost never touched the textbooks because his lesson plans were so detailed! He actually knew and understood what he was talking about (as you hope all teachers are). He gave us options, room to wiggle and experiment with what we were learning about, the chance to earn extra credit by finding examples of biology in our local newspaper, and many activities that reached out to all learning styles. Basically, if you didn’t understand the material in class one day, you could count on him recapping it in a new way the next day just to show how biology is a natural, scientific subject, but also something that is ever changing and experiencing new discoveries each day. Mr. Whiles is the type of teacher that really jumped on board with learning and discovering by using his own strategies. He wasn’t afraid to bring in outside sources that he knew were reliable.

            We know that in everything there is an equal and opposite reaction. Even though these two classrooms were wildly different, we know that they were a part of an educational culture that wished to endorse educational communities – not discourage them. Pratt coins the term “contact zones” in her essay, “Arts of the Contact Zone”. This is where, as she says, “A social space where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other…” In my opinion, she is spot on! My high school (the culture) was endorsing two different types of classroom styles (communities); one where work was never accomplished and one where learning was done in a great abundance. It’s interesting to see how two extremes can thrive in such a close proximity. I mean, they were definitely ‘clashing and grappling with each other’ from my point of view.

            Perhaps our education system IS too ‘utopian’ (unable to enact fraternity, liberty, and equality). We were definitely lacking in the equality of our classrooms at my high school. According to Pratt, she argues that “we need to develop ways of understanding (even noticing) social and intellectual spaces that are not homogeneous or unified”.  Well – I think my high school was definitely NOT homogeneous – or rather it IS heterogeneous, just as she was hoping for us to see. I’m just not sure how this was such a great idea. I think the idea of a heterogeneous learning environment is good, but in actuality, it is bad. At least in my situation: it turned out to be bad. To decide on either a ‘homogeneous’ learning environment, or a ‘heterogeneous’ learning environment, I feel would be wrong. There can’t be one specific ‘winner’ as everyone hopes for. This is something that has too many variables to decipher right now. Its perfection can only come with time.

Creating an Assignment Response

Given the opportunity to write my own assignment was interesting. It was kind of hard to think about. Luckily I got put with Jesse who always has crazy ideas. The first time we had the opportunity to meet with our groups, we had our idea and were up and running.

I’m not entirely sure where our inspiration came from. Jesse just pulled it out of his mind. I thought it was a good idea – conducting a survey based off of Freire and Robinson’s point of views. I thought it was interesting because it wasn’t your average English assignment. I think it’s a good way to actually SEE how school is working out for everyone, as well as find out some hard facts on whether or not people wish to see an improvement in the school system.

If given this opportunity again, I think we would have discussed more on how to present it. I mean – we only had two of our group members present, and all they did was read right off the paper. Oops! That needs some definite improvement.

All in all, it was kind of hard to be the teacher. I didn’t really want to sit down and think of something stimulating enough to be a good assignment. I didn’t realize how much thought it takes to make something of substance. If given this opportunity again, I’d probably cry. Just kidding! It wasn’t too bad.

The Revision, of a Revision, of Freire’s ‘Banking’ Method Essay

*** REVISED VERSION #2 ***

Arms crossed, seated upon a barstool, podium cast to the side, blankly staring at our midsized classroom. Yes – this is how I spent every other day of my advanced placement language and composition class. My teacher, (whom we will refer to as “Mrs. Scabs” just in case any previous peers of mine stumble upon this blog) was an odd woman. I can honestly say I didn’t learn a single thing in her class that entire year – at least nothing of importance that I can recall. Mrs. Scabs is the epitome of Paulo Freire’s ‘Banking’ concept. She simply handed us novel after novel with the expectation that we would read, we would learn, we would write, and move on. Alright, I admit it, I did learn how to write a well-rounded in-class essay within 40 minutes, but still. Anything of substance was thrown out the window. There isn’t a thought within my head that remembers any stimulating class discussions. Please; take a moment to sympathize with me… We endured some of the densest novels known to man; well-known pieces of literature such as “Ethan Frome”, “The Scarlet Letter”, “The Jungle”, and so much more. I can promise you right now – these novels are beautiful. By any means, I don’t mean to disrespect or belittle their authors. They are packed with interesting diction, syntax, symbolism and imagery. I am simply trying to make clear how awful it is read such well written literature and be stuck with a teacher who never took the time to expand and initiate discussions. There are so many things that could have been discussed and debated. They really are interesting – just not as interesting as they could have been. This was the first class I had ever been placed in that made me want to hurl. Her essay prompts were nearly impossible to comprehend; detail after detail concerning hidden meanings and imagery was difficult to portray within a 40 minute time span. It still amazes me that I passed – hardly of course.

After hearing about the ‘banking’ concept, and finally being able to officially learn about it, I feel so relieved. It’s like this weight has been lifted off my shoulders and can finally proclaim: YES! Someone does understand! Teachers need to realize that just because they’re lazy and might be able to learn from nothing but personal work, that not everyone works that way. Sure – we may be young, but we can raise some pretty controversial topics that make great for conversation.  Of course, Freire writes in such a way that he is incredibly persuasive without me even realizing it at first. He certainly makes the thought of a “problem-posing” type of world sound appealing;  almost an airtight plan!

I really enjoyed the way Freire presented the topic of problem-posing.  He had a lot of great one-liners and phrases that summed up the way I felt exactly. For example, on page 263, he states “Problem-posing… strives for the emergence of consciousness and critical intervention in reality”. To me, this is most brilliantly stated! I love the emphasis he put on ‘critical intervention’ for a couple of reasons. First, today’s times are all about critical situations. Everything we do is dependent upon something/someone else. The competition we face in every aspect of our lives calls for critical decisions in order for us to rise above and prove that we’re something more than the typical man or woman. I am impressed with the way he puts the emphasis on how critical things are nowadays. Second, the way he words that, critical intervention, implies that we are in need of something that has never been done before. It is time to step it up and change the way things are! Things are clearly not working; there are flaws around every corner. Teachers are awarding points to kids who don’t deserve them, simply because they want to get them out of their classroom and onto the next teacher who can ‘deal with them’. However, if teachers would realize the reason these kids aren’t passing their class is because THEY are the ones who aren’t properly conducting their classroom, we wouldn’t have such a problem on our hands. I agree with a lot of what Freire said because I am one who is partial to class discussions and hands-on activities. But like any genius plan, it always looks great on paper first.

Freire also spoke a lot about consciousness and unconsciousness. He states on page 260, that “the individual is spectator, not re-creator. In this view, the person is not a conscious being; he or she is rather the possessor of a consciousness: an empty “mind” passively open to the reception of deposits of reality from the world outside…” You see – he feels that the banking method restrains students from thinking for themselves on a real-world basis. He strongly feels that since they are viewed as ‘empty’ containers to fill, that won’t be able to properly think for themselves in a critical situation; in a job, relationships, schooling… anything that effects where you end up in life. He feels that the banking method turns students into machines that are incapable of thinking consciously – unable to think in the here and now.

Along with his fear of loss of consciousness, Freire also worries that the agency of the today’s youth has been compromised. He feels that it, meaning the banking method, takes away your agency to act for yourself. Problem-posing gives students and teachers the option to mold and create a system that works for them. He goes on to say on page 261, “… to restore [their] capacity to act. But can [they], and how? One way is to submit to and identify with a person or group having power. By this symbolic participation in another person’s life, [men have] the illusion of acting, when in reality [they] submit to and become part of those who act”. By this, I believe he is trying to explain that by giving teachers the ability to pose questions, and act in a way to stimulate the thoughts of students, the students will be handed this illusion that they share the power and/or authority to act as they please. Essentially, it gives students the will to keep interested in their classes and ultimiately to have the desire to further their education. Freire feels that within banking, the authority, agency, and power all rests on the teacher; that they are not equal with the student. However in problem-posing, he feels that they are equal and that they do share a particular role in the way the classroom works and functions. He feels that “education consists in acts of cognition” (263) – which means education requires conscious acts of participation and decision making. I agree, but only to a certain extent. Not everything a student learns in a classroom requires 100 percent full attention, participation, and active involvement. It’s impossible for a student to sit for six or so hours in a day without getting distracted. At times, I feel that Freire is being too aggressive when stating his opinion. Yes, agency is important, and conscious agency is even greater, he could easily tone it down and still get his point across.

Issues with my head…

I have had quite a bit on my mind lately. With all my preparation to declare my minor in dance, I’ve been trying to get a firm grasp on what exactly I have to do to prepare for it. You’re probably thinking, “uh, this is an English blog? What’s the deal with you and dance?” I keep thinking about Freier’s thoughts on the banking method and problem-posing situations… I just really, really, really like the idea of the problem-posing situation. If students were given the choice on how to handle assignments, I think the creativity and self expression would be endless! Of course – a lot of students may act lazy and not take the opportunity to mold their own education. A lot wouldn’t want to take the initiative to get things done if they were given so many choices… A firm discipline plan would still have to be in place. BUT – the idea that students could take an assignment and run with it and their own ideas is so… weird! And refreshing! And amazing! I love it. I think the Fine Art Departments would flourish right along side math and science. I think it would create such a diversity that the world would become an even more beautiful place if only people were allowed to express themselves. 

If I Were A Teacher, My Students Would…

If I were in charge of a classroom, my poor students would not be pleased with me. I would make them do all kinds of activities that would take them out of their comfort zone. I would probably start by making them become extremely comfortable with each other by having them shake hands for the first few classes, pat each other on the shoulder for a few classes, then hug a few people at the start of each class from there on out. I know – this sounds so insane. But after taking a certain amount of dance classes, art classes, theater classes… I’ve noticed I learn the most from those because I am in my classmates bubble as much as they are in mine. We are rarely separated – sharing ideas, personal space, props, materials, etc.

So, because of all these interactive classes, I’ve learned they really strike within me, and I remember specific activites. For example, when memorizing lines for a play, it’s difficult to remember the entire script just sitting down. But when you get up, move up and down the stage, add blocking and levels, the lines come easier because you know when to walk, where you need to be on which phrases… I’m sure you get it.

During my junior year in high school, I had a great history teacher, except for the fact that he did nothing but lecture. He must hold a record for ‘Most PowerPoint’s Used in a Single Academic Year”. So, to incorporate more movement and actions, I would ask my students to create any kind of art project that they can easily identify with. I would want to see a variety of painting, acting, black and white photographs with time fitting scenes… ANYTHING! I would want them to go all out. The only limit I would place on this project is no diaramas. For myself, I consider those too elementary.

But other than that – everything is fair game. I love to see the way people reach inside themselves to dig deep and discover something new. It’s always impressive to see what people can come up with when you give them the world to work with. I think teachers ought to give assignments, but not give detailed directions. Too many kids ask for a specific step-by-step plan on how to get an ‘A’. I would want to see just how many of them could figure it out and step ahead.

Revision of Freire’s “Banking” Concept

*** REVISED VERSION ***

Arms crossed, seated upon a barstool, podium cast to the side, blankly staring at our midsized classroom. Yes – this is how I spent every other day of my advanced placement language and composition class. My teacher, (whom we will refer to as “Mrs. Scabs” just in case any previous peers of mine stumble upon this blog) was an odd woman. I can honestly say I didn’t learn a single thing in her class that entire year – at least nothing of importance that I can recall. Mrs. Scabs is the epitome of Paulo Freire’s ‘Banking’ concept. She simply handed us novel after novel with the expectation that we would read, we would learn, we would write, and move on. Alright, I admit it, I did learn how to write a well-rounded in-class essay within 40 minutes, but still. Anything of substance was thrown out the window. There isn’t a thought within my head that remembers any stimulating class discussions. Please; take a moment to sympathize with me… We endured some of the densest novels known to man. Well known pieces of literature such as “Ethan Frome”, “The Scarlet Letter”, “The Jungle”, and so much more. I can promise you right now – these novels are beautiful. By any means, I don’t mean to disrespect the authors. They are packed with interesting diction, syntax, symbolism and imagery. I am simply trying to make clear how awful it is read such well written literature and be stuck with a teacher who never took the time to expand and initiate discussions. There are so many things that could have been discussed and debated. They really are interesting – just not as interesting as they could have been. This was the first class I had ever been placed in that made me want to hurl. Her essay prompts were nearly impossible to comprehend; detail after detail concerning hidden meanings and imagery was difficult to portray within a 40 minute time span. It still amazes me that I passed – hardly of course.

After hearing about the ‘banking’ concept, and finally being able to officially learn about it, I feel so relieved. It’s like this weight has been lifted off my shoulders and can finally proclaim: YES! Someone does understand! Teachers need to realize that just because they’re lazy and might be able to learn from nothing but personal work, that not everyone works that way. Sure – we may be young, but we can raise some pretty controversial topics that make great for conversation.  Of course, Freire writes in such a way that he is incredibly persuasive without me even realizing it at first. He certainly makes the thought of a “problem-posing” type of world sound appealing; airtight plan!

I really enjoyed the way Freire presented the topic of problem-posing.  He had a lot of great one-liners and phrases that summed up the way I felt exactly. For example, on page 263, he states “Problem-posing… strives for the emergence of consciousness and critical intervention in reality”. To me, this is most brilliantly stated! I love the emphasis he put on ‘critical intervention’ for a couple of reasons. First, today’s times are all about critical situations. Everything we do is dependent upon something/someone else. The competition we face in every aspect of our lives calls for critical decisions in order for us to rise above and prove that we’re something more than the typical man or woman. I am impressed with the way he puts the emphasis on how critical things are nowadays. Second, the way he words that, critical intervention, implies that we are in need of something that has never been done before. It is time to step it up and change the way things are! Things are clearly not working; there are flaws around every corner. Teachers are awarding points to kids who don’t deserve, simply because they want to get them out of their classroom and onto the next teacher who can ‘deal with them’. However, if teachers would realize the reason these kids aren’t passing their class is because THEY are the ones who aren’t properly conducting their classroom, we wouldn’t have such a problem on our hands. I agree with a lot of what Freire said because I am one who is partial to class discussions and hands-on activities. But like any genius plan, it always looks great on paper first.

Freier also spoke a lot about consciousness and unconsciousness. He states on page 260, that “the individual is spectator, not re-creator. In this view, the person is not a conscious being; he or she is rather the possessor of a consciousness: an empty “mind” passively open to the reception of deposits of reality from the world outside…” You see – he feels that the banking method restrains students from thinking for themselves on a real-world basis. He strongly feels that since they are viewed as ‘empty’, containers to fill, that won’t be able to properly think for themselves in a critical situation;  in a job, relationships, schooling… anything that effects where you end up in life. He feels that it takes away your agency to act for yourself, whereas problem-posing gives students and teachers the option to mold and create a system that works for them. He goes on to say on page 261, “… to restore [their] capacity to act. But can [they], and how? One way is to submit to and identify with a person or group having power. By this symbolic participation in another person’s life, [men have] the illusion of acting, when in reality [they] submit to and become part of those who act”. By this, I believe he is trying to explain that by giving teachers the ability to pose questions, and act in a way to stimulate the thoughts of students, the students will be handed this illusion that they share the power and/or authority to act as they please. Essentially, it gives students the will to keep interested in their classes to have the desire to further their education. Freire feels that within banking, the authority, agency, and power all rests on the teacher; that they are not equal with the student. However in problem-posing, he feels that they are equal and that they do share a particular role in the way the classroom works and functions. He feels that “education consists in acts of cognition” (263) – that education requires conscious acts of participation and decision making. I agree, but only to a certain extent. Not everything a student learns in a classroom requires 100 percent full attention, participation, and active involvement. It’s impossible for a student to sit for six hours or so in a day without getting distracted. I feel that Freire is being too aggressive when stating his opinion. Yes, agency is important, and conscious agency is even greater, he could easily tone it down and still get his point across.