Helping were most needed ... Motivating young people to do good in the world!
.... Leading by example in Kenya
By nature, an educator is in a position of authority. In a time of constant change and globalization, this authority must be placed at the correct angle to evade domination over the outcomes of learning or avoid propagation of the status quo. The educator must display the necessary self-confidence to stimulate the students’ ability to question through critical thinking and analysis. By modeling the use of a critical lens, the teacher can collaborate in constructing the knowledge that is being acquired. Education is therefore a political statement and a tool for social justice.
“Political action on the side of the oppressed must be pedagogical action in the authentic sense of the word, and, therefore action with the oppressed.” (Freire 2000)
Today, students in our schools are oppressed by societal stresses of consumerism, peer-pressure, media manipulation, drug abuse and despondency. They feel powerless and disoriented by currents of true human needs and manufactured commercial wants, of personal identity and self-worth, and global correspondence. This oppression is endangering “the species” of the thinker, the constructor, the innovator, and the artist.
In a culturally diverse classroom, where we increasingly find students with special needs and obstacles to English language acquisition, the educator must balance the role of teacher and advocate. The problem is compounded by an ineffective educational system that is all to often the last item on the political priority list, but always the first item to be cut for budgetary salvation. While the teacher is the most valuable resource in the classroom, the journey of educating young vibrant minds can often feel like the lonely salmon swimming upstream.
The discrepancy of access to the same opportunities in education is being increasingly scrutinized to determine “whether it is race or class that is the major factor in denial of these children.” (J. Kozol, 1992, p.165) One could argue that as a society, we have come a long way in camouflaging the real divide that exists between the haves and have-nots.
As a teacher, we must instill character and pride when it comes to our students’ cultural identity. We must celebrate the uniqueness of our home environment, while opening the window to the world. Yet, in the process we must be careful not to propagate stereotypes that may be dominating the social principles. It is a simple as a mathematical equation that a third grader could explain: “keep it balanced!” Equal access to the same opportunities in education for ALL students, translates in the educator becoming not a pacifist, but a warrior for equality.
Being an advocate does not mean to aimlessly rebel against everything and anything. To the contrary, it means to strategically and realistically select the most important issues with the greatest positive impact for the students. A constructivist advocate enables real change for the betterment of humanity.
Freire, P. (2000) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Continuum International Publishing Group, New York, NY. (p. 66)