Education and bell hooks

How might we help educators, parents, and students adapt to remote learning while also using this moment to radically reimagine what we need our education systems to be?  #IDEOReimagineLearning – 21C Skills Lab

Education is in constant evolution and as educators we must adapt to the new sprit that has overtaken our world since 2020 began. ABCE is a school at the forefront of this novel learning initiative. It is true that we have implemented online programs across multiple platforms but my focus here is on defining what new education systems should look like as we move into the center of 2020 and beyond.

bell hooks has been an instrumental influence in education and the following five quotes shall pave our way through this re-envisioning. Hence, the valuable insight contained in these lines influence the education system in place at ABCE but also serve as enlightenment or vision for learners everywhere.

one – reinvention

To be changed by ideas was pure pleasure. But to learn ideas that ran counter to values and beliefs learned at home was to place oneself at risk, to enter the danger zone. Home was the place where I was forced to conform to someone else’s image of who and what I should be. School was the place where I could forget that self and, through ideas, reinvent myself.  (hooks 1994 p3)

Education is all about reinvention and envisioning a worldview from a different perspective. There should be little conformity in education since respecting unique opinions and divergences from the norm is paramount for learners to develop their creative outlook.  Educational practice at ABCE operates from this. Each learner is encouraged to reinvent, of course, this does not apply to grammatical structures or instances where linguistic rules must be followed. The emphasis is on assisting learners to build their own opinions and locate within the realm of critical thinking, the right tools to fabricate coherent and concrete responses. The theme of reinvention is foundational to language learning at ABCE so that learners finish their respective programs with awareness of the world that will inform all that they say or write in their new language.

two – souls

To educate as the practice of freedom is a way of teaching that anyone can learn. That learning process [is] easiest to those of us who teach who also believe that there is an aspect of our vocation that is sacred; who believe that our work is not merely to share information but to share in the intellectual and spiritual growth of our students. To teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students is essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin. (hooks 1994: 13)

The reference here to sacred is not religious. I would interpret the meaning as more of a philosophical approach to teaching, in that the educator is conscious of his or her responsibility to educate the learner. Caring in fact for the souls of our students is one way to write about a holistic approach in education. There must be a willingness on the part of the educator to bring learners into knowledge not just impart information. In several training sessions with numerous learners I have both practiced and witnessed this. The idea is to be present with learners, to understand them as people. It is essential for the educator to act as counselor or mediator or historian or linguist. Learners hope that their educators do more than just educate but in all fairness, listen to their words and supercharge the atmosphere where ideas can flourish and where emotions can be free.  

(Whether educator, instructor or teacher is used, the underlying opinion is that all terms should illustrate that the person educating, instructing or teaching is a catalyst in the delicate process that happens when learners are in their presence. Educating, instructing or teaching is about inclusiveness. The person who educates, instructs or teaches should consider the learner’s cultural and social background while inherently understanding the learner’s character in order to instill development. In brief, the dialogue between learner, the one who learns and educator, instructor or teacher is more than a sharing of concepts but should be one about raising awareness.)

three – inherent understanding

Progressive, holistic education, “engaged pedagogy” is more demanding that conventional critical or feminist pedagogy. For, unlike these two teaching practices, it emphasizes well-being. That means that teachers must be actively involved committed to a process of self-actualization that promotes their own well-being if they are to teach in a manner that empowers students. (hooks 1994: 15)

In this instance the primacy of the instructor’s own understanding or insight into why they teach is of the essence. Instructors must understand their own potential and trust their talent, have faith in their capability to uplift lives through teaching.  This helps the instructor to maintain their confidence and positivity even when learners are disinterested or unengaged. The instructor can view the lesson as another opportunity for their own learning, as a way to be more creative so as to change their teaching style for enabling the learner. If the instructor is too reliant on the student’s interpretation of the lesson, the instructor can lose their verve and over time, burn out. Success for the instructor means burning up and drawing on their vast resources to make the lesson impactful. Instructors at ABCE possess the rarest of qualities, to locate within, their ability to motivate learners into action.

four – hopefulness

My hope emerges from those places of struggle where I witness individuals positively transforming their lives and the world around them. Educating is always a vocation rooted in hopefulness. As teachers we believe that learning is possible, that nothing can keep an open mind from seeking after knowledge and finding a way to know. (hooks 2003 p.xiv)

Variations on the way to know can be translated into ways to know because learners from all backgrounds have their own take on learning. As teachers we support our learners with hopeful instruction. We teach them to choose the right tools for achieving their distinct learning objectives. We assist them with their learning, their quest towards knowing. The teacher instills hope or meaning when individuals are in struggle. In fact, we must help the learner to take in the landscape even in adversity. Teachers who operate from hopefulness for learning despite cultural, educational, linguistic or social barriers will be staunch supporters. The concrete walls that isolate learners will break for learners to know due to the teacher’s reliance and ability to instill hope. This hope will be the balm required when learners stumble over the rubble.

five – practice of freedom

The academy is not paradise. But learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom with all its limitations remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labour for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom. (hooks 1994: 207)

At this juncture during such a critical time, when an individual has passed on we say, Rest in Peace or Rest in Power. The latter signals that such a person has brought their vision to our world and social change into our world. As instructors, we live to change the world for the learners in our classrooms, virtual or real. We must not pass on but pass over the borders that separate us. In education, there are too many borders brought about by identity politics and having an educational system that is inspired by the practice of freedom is what our world needs at this time. ABCE is a school that enacts this practice of freedom. We are here to listen to our learners’ words as they are here to speak those words. Learners at ABCE are free to read and write in peace as they compose their stories. We support the liberty of our learners and their freedom – freedom to think in power

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