Define “Educator”

Twice a week for the past two semesters I have been the professor leading EDPSY 420: Learning Theory.  I’ve read hundreds of assignments, prepared dozens of PowerPoints, printed thousands of handouts, and occasionally carried around a stuffed rhinoceros.  Before each class I walked through the university’s cafe for a Diet Coke, glancing toward a collection of couches where some of my favorite professors used to gather.  Their wisdom and love of students continues to guide how I do this good work.  Even the picture on this blog comes from one of those educators.  Our coffee sessions came to an end, but their impact never will.

When I first walked into the classroom last August, I assumed that the nine students in the course were all aiming to be teachers.  Within the first hour I learned that I was wrong.  Instead their goals included teacher plus lawyer, coach, counselor, hygienist, and “not sure yet.”  When the spring semester started with 18 new faces, I had a larger viewpoint from the very start and have been trying to highlight that perspective every week.

One of the students’ assignments is to write about their education philosophy.  I am asking them to write about the context that they really want to be part of, not just take the easy route of writing about a classroom.  These men and women have already taught me so much (as the group before them did) and not just when they are standing in the front of a room.  They are already educators by the questions they ask, the reflections they write, the ways they support one another, and sometimes by the ways they disengage from the group.  They may never have Teacher, Professor, or Instructor on their resumes, but that hardly means they will not be educators.

That is one of the main lessons I hope they take from these 15 weeks.  That their lives are much bigger than any classroom and their work will lead and educator others through their words and actions.  Combined with this lesson, I hope they hold onto the conscientizacao value proclaimed in Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed (one of our assigned readings in the course):

The term conscientizacao refers to learning to perceive social, political and economic contradictions, and to take action against the oppressive elements of reality.

Its strange to wish that my students would feel the weight of the world on their shoulders, but I guess that’s the core of this goal.  For these students to be educators to the world…to change the world.

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