Monday, March 5, 2012

Day One Hundred Twenty-Two: Peddling Pedagogy

Peddling Pedagogy

I am a teacher. I have parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and even a husband, who are teachers. One room schools on the prairie, outdoor education at Saskairie, cooperative games on track day, tough kids won with love, born on the Ides of March while Mom taught Julius Caesar. Some family reunions resemble staff rooms: my teaching pedigree.

As I learned to take on the family identity of teacher (proclaimed in grade nine as I rejected marine biologist and veterinarian) I seldom thought of being a practitioner or even an educator. Being a teacher was a way of being. Being in relationship with students… toward empowerment. My teacher identity was secure.

Throughout my formal education and eleven years in the classroom, my identity of teacher has faltered as I’ve faced my shortfalls. I have experienced disillusionment within the system, feeling weak in my way of being.

I have often looked to classroom management, curriculum planning, extra-curricular activities, varied instruction, and committee work for rescue as my notion of teacher-as-being has been bruised within classroom reality: students who didn’t want or need relationship with me. (Not to mention colleagues who didn’t want or need me. Ouch.)

I have spent whole years invested in management techniques or varied instruction to find my perfect teaching self. This makes me think of the beginning of that great love passage from 1 Corinthians 13, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” Oh, how I’ve clanged!

My Hermeneutica
men and of angels
i will quote
new american version
letting metonymy of men
like Kleenex and Javex
name brand
and no
i am wo(e)-men
know name


What art is this?
Can I ever see more than/even me?
What of the broader we that look to see?

Was Schopenhauer right in writing of the task to be?
Can every-body see
Thinking (differently) about that which we all see? L?
(Brogden, 2005)

This desire for so-much-more from myself and my profession peddled me back to university. The timing was right. We were moving off-reserve to my southern Saskatchewan prairie, close to the University of Regina. I took my first grad class the first summer we were home.

I met the word pedagogy. Dr. Wanda Hurren introduced me – literally – to many pedagogues. She invited her class on a road trip to Lethbridge for a curriculum symposium: I shook hands with Ted Aoki, David Jardine, Cynthia Chambers, Erika Hasebe-Ludt, Carl Leggo, David Smith and listened spellbound as they blew the door wide-open on ways of being as a teacher. I still have not recovered.

I met the word white. Dr. Hurren made another introduction, bringing me an article written by Dr. Carol Schick (2000) in which I learned of my whiteness in the context of pedagogy. I still have not recovered.

My grandpa, in his early 90’s, told me that a pedagogue was a lesser Greek teacher who walked students toward the master teachers. I assumed this meant they walked and taught. I imagine the pedagogue pointed and exclaimed. He took students from home – to school – to home, like a bus driver. Perhaps the Magic School Bus’ Miss Frizzle is the modern pedagogue. Her motto: Take chances. Make mistakes. Get messy.

Here’s a footnote. I thought the “ped” in pedagogue was the same as the “ped” in pedal from pedis, foot. Rather, “…from L. paedagogus ‘slave who escorted children to school and generally supervised them’ later ‘a teacher,’ from GK. paidagogos, from pais (gen. paidos) ‘child’ + agogos ‘leader,’ from agein ‘to lead’ (see act)” (

This thesis writing is my messy memory footpath as I come to terms, terms like whiteness, pedagogy, anti-racism. For example, I use the terms on-reserve and off-reserve. These are colloquial constructions used in a similar way as those who might say they live in-town or out-of-town. For me, a white person, to claim a professional and personal existence on reserve is open to scepticism. What do I mean by being on-reserve? Reserves were constructed to keep people in and keep others out (or to keep others in and people out). I cannot claim to have had an on-reserve experience similar to an-other who may have been confined (or liberated) by reserve life. Before I lived on-reserve, I would never have thought I was living off-reserve. Now that I am in the south again, I know I live and teach off-reserve.

As a pedagogue, each hour, I figuratively pick up my students from on-one-reserve-or-another and off-one-reserve-or-another, bring them to my off-reserve-classroom, and then take them home. There is humility in this walk. I lead, yet my status is slave. Students follow, yet their status is child of the master. I come home to my notion of teacher as being in relationship. “Teaching is truly pedagogic if the leading grows out of this care that inevitably is filled with the good of care” (Aoki, 1992, p. 21). I have needed this thesis to problematize my on-reserve experience, come to terms, and find the courage to keep walking with students off-reserve. This cycle, I presume, is never ending.

June Aoki, in Ted Aoki’s (1992) article, tells the story of her watchful teacher, Mr. McNab, on the day she cleared her desk, along with other Japanese students, and left school. She writes, “I often recall the image of his watchfulness clothed in care. Mustering courage, I asked him if he remembered the moment. There was a moment of silence. Then he simply said, ‘that was a sad day.’ That was all he would say. The rest he left unsaid. But I felt that in the silence he said much” (p. 25). Her story resonates deeply; I have many Mr. McNabs, and I hope I have been a Mr. McNab to some of my students.

Yet, I have struggled with understanding if watchfulness is enough. As I have encountered readings toward social justice, feminism, and anti-racism, this “pedagogical watchfulness and pedagogical thoughtfulness(Aoki, 1992, p. 25) seems less than adequate: where is the politics, power and change? To further trouble my pedagogy, I now see the boldness of Ted Aoki (1992), “Authentic teaching is watchfulness, a mindful watching overflowing from the good in the situation that the good teacher sees. In this sense, good teachers are more than they do; they are the teaching. When McNab watched, he was the teaching. No less, no more” (p. 26). My readings within the posts: structural, modern, colonial, challenge such essentializing. Is there such a thing as “my perfect teaching self?” Still, I cannot ignore the resonance this story brings to my teacher’s soul. As pedagogue, can I have it all? Can my being and doing come together? Could my definition of teacher be: one who speaks with the tongues of wo(e)-men and of angels and has love?

Pages 2-6 in BLUE EYES REMEMBERING TOWARD ANTI-RACIST PEDAGOGY, A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research In Partial Fulfillment of the RequirementsFor the Degree of Master of Curriculum and Instruction In Education University of Regina By Sheena M. Koops Regina, Saskatchewan June 2006 ã June 2006: Sheena M. Koops

1 comment:

  1. Your reference to Corinthians struck a note with me. I have spent much time clanging as well - as a teacher and as a parent.