“The teacher is of course an artist…”-Paolo Friere

Years ago, in 1970, before I became a teacher, I read a book my mom was reading,Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paolo Friere, a great humanitarian educator and philosopher from Brazil. What stuck with me was Friere’s criticism of what he thought most educational institutions were doing to students, a “banking” model where “deposits” of education were made and “withdrawals” identical to the deposits were extracted. Rote instead of learning; memorization instead of comprehension.  With this type of education, it is not only the poor who are oppressed, it’s all who are oppressed since the art of thinking, questioning, reasoning, discovering is not engaged.

Friere knew that, “Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.”  His words guided me as I started out, once upon a time, as a young teacher in the mid-seventies and his words stayed with me as I learned from my students what their needs and interests were and used those needs and interests to guide me in my lesson planning and curriculum development.

For some reason, I have been thinking of Friere the past couple of days, don’t know why.

Schools have tried to do better by students, but they’ve a long way to go. Our society still does not put the needs of students and their families first. They would rather blame teachers and teachers’ unions for all the ills that school systems are plagued with. Testing and more testing is not a solution; testing doesn’t measure intelligence or capability or real comprehension. Testing is just testing and it costs millions of dollars. The money would be better spent on creating schools that are learning hubs in each community where students, parents, community members and school personnel all work together to meet the needs of an ever-changing society with student populations from all over the world. Teachers want to teach and they want to teach well.

The reality is that a hungry child must be fed first. A child with no clean cothes to wear because someone couldn’t get to the laundromat, must have clean clothes and clothes suitable for all types of weather. A child who has no place to study in a cramped apartment or who is in charge of younger siblings or who gets very little sleep due to a myriad of living conditions, can’t function well in school.

I believe a good teacher is an artist. Teaching is a calling, like artists who are called to write music, perform, paint, write, act, sculpt, dance…Like all art, teachers must also whip out of the air, talents they didn’t even know they had, when confronted with the neediness of so many of our families today. Support our teachers. Help families. It’s our future that’s at stake!







6 thoughts on ““The teacher is of course an artist…”-Paolo Friere

  1. Freire helped to change the way I view education and my role in it as a teacher. Education as a vehicle for liberation is a powerful concept and perhaps goes a long way in explaining why it seems we’re moving in the opposite direction in our country. Great post.

  2. I couldn’t agree more with your insights. Teaching well is definitely an art.

    My 7-yr old is at school and he loves it. We has fostered in him, at home, the importance of learning. He is fully engaged and has sound learning capabilities. If he isn’t then I am not going to place the blame on the teacher or on the school for what I have failed to do at home. While teachers play a pivotal role in what they learn in class, it is ultimately down to the parents to foster the love of learning what is being taught.

    Thanks for making me aware of your blog. Teachers are so vital to our kids’ future but parents also need to step up and take an active interest in their kids’ development. All too often I see kids falling through the gap and parents need to take full responsibility for this happening. There is only so much a school can do, especially if there are 900 kids to teach.

    Until tomorrow ~ Live life, love life

    • Thanks for your insightful and honest comment. I so agree with you. Unfortunately, it is not politically correct for any teacher or union representing teachers to even infer that parents should take SOME responsibility for the education of their children. Your son is very lucky to have parents who talk with him; take care of him; nurture his interests; educate him, etc. Too many children do not have that advantage and teachers are expected to have students who are hungry, neglected, tired, abused, unprepared for school, ill and situated in difficult circumstances, read on grade level and pass high stakes assessments. It happens, but how often? I am waiting for the day when children truly do come first in our country. In the meantime, I hope that many young people will aspire to become teachers and fight the uphill battle to make a difference in the lives of their students. My mom was a teacher/guidance counselor, I’m a retired teacher and my son is a teacher. I hope to hear from you again!!!!!

  3. I think one of the biggest problems for parents who do let their kids fall through the gap is no one took an interest in their lives. Kids learn valuable lessons from their parents so if these parents didn’t have parents who nurtured, protected and love them then it’s likely they won’t have this knowledge to pass on. Unless of course people become fully aware at a certain age and lift themselves out of this void, but unfortunately these cases are few and far between. If damage is inflicted on kids at a young age, it’s a real uphill battle to pull them out of the quick sand.

    I agree with you, kids are the future of this world. 30 years ago I was the future and I am living this future right now – and it’s hard work – and I had help when I was a growing human being.

    I was fortunate to have parents who encouraged critical thinking, learning, compassion, kindness, ethics etc. When I was 7, my dad took me to work with him every Saturday to do his filing and some typing. I know many feminists would balk at this concept but dad taught me the importance of work ethic. My dad was and still is the ultimate teacher, he has passed his sound world knowledge on to me and I am in turn passing mine on to my son, albeit from a different perspective.

    However, some kids, as you say, aren’t so lucky. The situation some kids find themselves in is a vicious cycle but how can we break it? I’d love to tell some parents that what they’re doing to their kids is outrageous but I can’t. i can only imagine how hard it is for teachers to hold their opinions too!!! Unfortunately we have world governments who are only interested in supporting big corporate entities because they think they are what makes the world go round. They forget the people who run these entities were kids once.

    My younger sister is a teacher, my aunts are teachers and my grandmother was also a teacher. They all have incredible passion for what they do.

    Teaching, like nursing, is such an important profession that by and large isn’t respected by the governments – are they afraid of a revolution if people become too smart? If they keep a percentage of people ‘down’ then do they think the world won’t see what their true agendas are? The world, thank god, is changing, thanks in part to the internet, and we are all becoming wiser to the ways of oppressive governments. The world will be a different place in 10 years’ time and I can’t wait to see what it brings. New forms of teaching? More one-on-one teaching with the help of the internet? Who knows but it cannot get any worse, that’s for sure.

    I will definitely check back in to your blog, it’s good to speak to someone who is on the same page.

    Until tomorrow ~ Live Life, Love Life

  4. I have had Friere on my “to read” list for far too long. I agree with idea of “teacher as artist.” I think that we sometimes interpret this incorrectly to mean that teachers are free to do whatever they want, or don’t have to be rigorous. But a great artist has both incredible technical skill/discipline but also the creativity and imagination to think in really new and exciting ways. Thanks for this post!

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