In response to Kumahiro – changing the definition of a “good teacher”

Kevin Kumashiro in ‘Against Common Sense’ speaks about the ideas of a “good teacher”. From studying various teacher education he concluded that there were three main ideas of a good teacher that included teachers as learned practitioners, researchers and professionals. The idea is that the qualities of a good teacher that have been taught to pre service teachers are the qualities that cause us to teach oppressively. It is the way that these programs are structured that cause us to be rooted in traditional practices of teaching that can cause teachers to be fearful of new ways of thinking. It is the fear of anything new or different that is oppression.

I am personally intrigued at Kumashiro’s idea that teachers need to be fully aware of the limitation of their knowledge. It is the limitation of our knowledge that encourages us to gain new knowledge and from different perspective. When we realize that our limited by our current knowledge we can allow ourselves to learn and grow from the perspectives of the diverse array of students that we will teach. I now understand the importance of reflection when we learn. Kumashiro says that reflections are what bridge that gap between theory and practice. When we reflect we are able to formulate new ideas about our own teaching philosophies. Reflection is a way to absorb all of the information that is thrown at us as pre service teachers so that we can dissect it and pick up the pieces that will be useful to us and our students.

As a future science teacher, research is something that consumes my day to day studies. I understand how to analyse and make conclusions about data but when it comes to examining social justice we must do it differently. When I read what Kumashiro has to say about learning social justice, I realize that it is much different then how we normally research and solve problems. Social justice cannot be simply taught to pre-service teachers. It is not something that can be directly studied. We must study learning habits, teaching practices and curriculum to see the oppressive barriers that affect our goal of creating learned students, and only then can we make changes to the way we teach. Kumashiro says, “Research has to examine teacher’s desires to teach one way and why we resist to do anything differently. “ I believe that oppressive teaching and learning will change as we begin to allow students to ask hard questions, and when teachers will allow themselves to ask difficult questions of their students.

In our quest to make teaching seen as a profession we have created standards that could cause obstructions in our goals to create students who can critically and creatively construct their own knowledge while being open and accepting to the knowledge of those around them. If we want our practices to become anti oppressive then we must always continue to change them. If we believe that we have found the answer to teaching with an anti-oppressive perspective then we will get rutted in those practices. Even if they worked at one point, circumstances will change and our practices will become oppressive once again. We must be constantly changing, improving, reflecting and starting the process all over again.

I wonder if this merry go round of oppressive actions, curriculum and teaching can catch us when we get complacent in our practices? Does the fearful attitude of change turn educators away from teaching new concepts in new ways? Is this fear of constant change leading to oppressive teaching practices? Kumashiro says that we should teach “what we desire not to know” to uncover ways of thinking that have been oppressed. When we begin to think about all the knowledge that is not desirable, we discover that it is much more extensive then the standard ways of thinking that have been laid out for us. How do we decide which is more important and what to spend time on? Is it a matter of being aware of your classroom’s need for different knowledge? Or is it throwing away the rule book and challenging yourself to teach from an undesired perspective?



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