Paradoxes & Praxis: The 21st Century Imperative for Educational Foundations


We thought it would be helpful to approach this chapter in terms of our experiences to hopefully give you a feel of what it was like to be in a class that is very different from other classes in the college and university. We found ourselves feeling vulnerable in the class. While we shared feelings of vulnerability, this stemmed from very different places.

Janekka: My moments of vulnerability were in my readings and my writings. This class sets itself apart because pre-service curriculum has standard components in which we are to recall and practice through pedagogy. The other courses I took required higher level thinking and stretched me, but this class made me question everything I knew as a pre-service teacher and forced me to give an explanation of why I thought the way that I did. Being a non-traditional student, I was not privileged to have a large amount of time to review the readings several times, and I was concerned that the information was too dense for me to comprehend. I began the course attempting to interpret the right answers, and over time I began to understand that my individual interpretation was more important than seeking a standard formularized product.  When I showed up authentically with my own interpretation of the readings, I understood the purpose of the course and I began to embrace the experience. I was never complacent in my performance in the class because I had more at stake than my counterparts. However, I began to become more comfortable in my ability to dissect through difficult texts after this class and being okay with not having the same interpretation as others. My teaching philosophy was birthed in this class, because I began to see education through a different lens.

Katie: My moments of vulnerability came from my being complacent in the many aspects of my life. Due to many forms of privilege, I often found myself being ok with not knowing an answer. I knew that not having every single detail figured out was okay for me. I come from a family that made it apparent I would have to work to get in to college, which was true. However, society expected me to succeed because many people that we see in positions of power looked like me. When I failed a class, my parents could afford to hire a tutor for the extra help that I desperately needed. When I felt as if I missed or messed up an opportunity, another one would be around the corner. For most of my life, because I was “white,” because I spoke English, because I dressed a certain way, I was constantly read and treated a certain way. Time after time, this reinforced and contributed to my being complacent in situations. Unlike previous experiences, I became vulnerable in this class because I began to see that my complacency was due to systematic privilege and oppression. I now was able to see and be critical of the very systems that favored people like me (except for my being female).  At moments this became, and honestly still is, hard.  I struggle to be productive in a larger conversation: When should I speak? When should I not? When is silence okay? How do my words affect the dialogue? What does my silence reinforce? Knowing what I know now, how am I going to teach? Why does this all feel so heavy?  When I do engage in conversations, will I speak from my personal experience, or think of other voices? In this class and even now, I want to scream HELP!

As mentioned before, the conversations in this class were a huge source of growth; however, they were often coupled with readings. Another important part of our experience in the class we want to share is engaging difficult texts: how it felt, what it meant for us, and the navigation of these texts.

Janekka: Before taking this course, my intention for each class was to complete each assignment as instructed following the well-crafted rubrics from the professors. Initially, I began reading with the intention of fulfilling the requirements for the class. I had to learn how to navigate through the eyes of the philosophers and assimilate my thinking with the "Challenge" assignments. When I realized that I actually had to connect the material to an assignment with four other people, that’s when the frustration came to the surface. During the group discussion time, the light bulb would come on and I would inquire to my colleagues on how they interpreted the material, and that is when the real learning took place for me.  I discovered safety in dialogue. My initial mindset led me to frustration because I thought I had to get everything from my own interpretations. The true learning experience happened when I gave myself permission.

to be free in not knowing
to be free to not yet know
to be free in the unknown
to do the work with others of coming to know

Katie: Reading quickly became one of the most difficult aspects of this class for me.  Prior to the Foundations class, I rarely enjoyed reading. I believe this was in part to struggling with grammar, mechanics, basically anything to do with written language. So of course reading texts, that were way above my mental range, was frustrating. The first week I remember attempting the reading and getting half way through. Not because I didn’t have the time to do it, but I was struggling; struggling to see how and why this text mattered to my life, much less my teaching. Sometimes I was a little too gentle with myself. I often thought, "If I don’t get it this time, its okay. We are going to talk about it in a large group so I can listen to my peers. This is all so complex, how can anyone expect me to get it?" I quickly became turned off by the difficulty of the texts. However, I soon realized that if I was going to do well and grow from this experience, I needed to find a way to understand parts of the text. As I began to read more and re-read texts, I began to appreciate the words. The readings still did not fully make sense, but I knew they were important and I began to feel engaged. The turning point for me, in regards to readings, was being able to see the connections among the readers, schools of thought, and everything I had learned up to that point.

readings showed me
I know Theory
I don’t truly know
my knowledge is not Truth
I know theories
seeking to know truths

This class impacted both of our lives and chances are it will somehow impact yours as well. It not only affected our philosophy of teaching, but it greatly affected our philosophy of being as well.

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