Of the three teacher images Kumashiro outlines in chapter one of Against Common Sense, I feel that of teachers as learned practitioners best describes my own teacher education so far. In this kind of preparation Kumashiro found that teacher education students need to learn three main things (p. 6).
The first is learning about students: who they are, how the develop, and how they learn. Mostly this is provided in the form of learning about psychology and also, to a lesser extent, student differences. So far in my experience I have learned about the psychological theories that affect who students are and how they will be in classroom environments. For example, I have learned about Brofennbrenner’s theory about the different systems that shape who people become. This influences me to look for understanding about students through their environment and also seeing how they are and theorizing about their environment. From my understanding based on this subject I suppose I am to alter my teaching methods to suit individual students. In my experience a great amount of understanding students has developed around seeing and understanding peoples differences and what that means in the context of our society. This aspect of my education is meant to fit me with a “foundational knowledge” if you will and also provide me with lenses that help me see oppression as experienced by my students.
Secondly, I am learning a specific area, that is to say as an English major, English is my field of study in education. This type of education puts me on track to becoming an English teacher, although I know I may never teach in my major area of study. Kumashiro notes that none of the programs he researched had the fields of study relate back to the topic of anti-oppressive education (p. 7). I can see that this is true in my own experience. My English (and minor, Math) studies have, so far, been completely separate from the topics discussed in my education studies. When I am studying English I am not learning to see literature from different perspective as I am told to do in my education studies. I do not see queer identities or the narratives of oppression in my literature classes and I have never been encouraged in those classes to explore such ideas. This represents a disconnect between my field of study in English and my studies of anti-oppressive education.
Thirdly, Kumashiro says students learn how to teach in a classroom. He says that often it is taught by blending theory and practical experience (p. 7). In my educational experience I have been provided some theories and methods about good teaching, I have been taught that there is not one correct way and you must learn to be reflective and find different methods that work for you and your students. Often I have been encouraged to blend methods that speak to diversity in the classroom and honour many different ways of knowing. My classroom studies have been paired with fieldwork experience that allows me to see how real classrooms are functioning. I was asked to notice what and how methods are used to provide an anti-oppressive education. On the one hand I have been given an education that details for me the importance of teaching responsively and anti-oppressively, but in some foundational ways I am still being told that there are good ways of teaching that are not quite questioning common sense to the extent they could be. This is representative of the difficulties that can be found in trying to teach education students into becoming learned practitioners.
In summation, my education is directing me to become a teacher for social justice, but there are still some issues that arise in any education program. Kumashiro says that it is important for teachers to know their limits of knowledge (p. 7). By only providing specific psychology knowledge only certain ideas are being privileged, which doesn`t allow me to find many different insights into the psychologies of education. Also, having standards in my specialized area of English can work against my understanding of anti-oppressive education; it is important and necessary to make connections and see different ways of knowing in my specialized field. Learning to become a learned practitioners is, in some ways, helping me to learn how to teach anti-oppressive education, but it is also not taking advantage of troubling knowledge; so that I will be educated to see knowledge that is troubling and oppressive, but also be able to see the ways oppression works even in that body of knowledge and always digging deeper. (Kumashiro 8-10)
Kumashiro, Kevin K. Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice. New York: Routledge, 2009. Print.