Friday, March 10, 2023

Community replaces control

Aww, bell, yeah! The thought of bell hooks splashes a huge smile across my face because I love her work.

I guess my smile connects to a fundamental point about teaching of what students remember. They may not remember the details of specific material, but rather, they'll remember the feeling they had when they were in that teacher's classroom.

Bell hooks taught me a lot of helpful, necessary material. But because her focus often is the importance of the emotional and spiritual sides of educators and students, I feel so warm when I think of her.

I've read multiple bell hooks books and put Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope (2003) at the top of the list. In classrooms, teachers must stop perpetuating education's cold system of dominance and control. Rather, they must build communities where the teacher and student work in partnership.

While this idea may seem pretty darn basic, I must say that it sadly is over the head of many teachers who may not reflect deeply enough. Others embrace dominance and control and call it "classroom management." They are like, "I was dominated and controlled when I was a kid, and that's what they'll need in college."

Lol! ... Once we as teachers understand that dominance, control and mere rule following is not at all education, then we can maybe do something worthwhile for both the teacher and student.

However, I'm only talking about the thesis of Teaching Community, and hooks gets into many crucial aspects of teaching that need to be addressed more. She does that through essays in each chapter. One chapter I especially respond to is spirituality in public school classrooms.

Teachers typically are trained to not talk spirituality, or religion, in the classroom, and this is a disservice to themselves, students and society. Rather, teachers need to bring secular sacredness into their classrooms, and by sacredness, bell hooks means awareness and wholeness.

By denying the spiritual sides of students, it promotes disconnectedness from one's self and others. So a potential reason why our schools are so disconnected could step from this spiritual denial.

Other huge topics that I respond to in Teaching Community are hooks' commentary on race and emotion. Hooks writes that teachers are often the most reluctant group to acknowledge the extent in which "white supremacist thinking informs every aspect of our culture including the way we learn, the content of what we learn, and the manner in which we are taught."

So true. Our history books and our curriculum come from such an obvious white perspective that districts and educators truly must understand and accept this for any hope of progress. Unfortunately, hooks' basic point often remains unacknowledged, and so schools are stuck in the past.

With emotion, hooks underscores that a teaching space must open itself up for emotional growth, and if it doesn't do that, ultimately it will remain stuck in dominance/control mode. Of course, there is much more intricacy to her points than my overview here, but at least I'm pointing out a few basic points.

Hooks passed away in December 2021, and after that, some of her work saw a resurgence. In fact, All About Love (1999) has been in The New York Times top 10 of nonfiction books for close to a year.

I was happy to have found her work while she was still with us. She absolutely, positively deserves the attention and accolades she receives.

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