Community Learning Exchange

Two weeks ago I taught a class, which I developed Dewey, Vygotsky, DuBois, Freire, and hooks as Social Justice Pedagogy at Pacific Oaks College. My students are adults and they are all studying for their degrees in early childhood and school age education. In exploring Freire, we did a problem-posing exercise, where the students went into small groups and decided on a problem that needed addressing, share their stories around this problem and then began to develop emerging social action to confront this problem. At the end of this exercise, many of the students returned with tears in their eyes. They shared how being given the space to tell their stories around the named problem and hear and engage in the stories of the members of their group was one of the most empowering things they had ever done. When asked if this exercise had changed for them any pre-conceived notions, biases or stereotypes they had had about members in the class, they all said yes. One student stated that through the sharing of these stories around the problem/ the oppression they came to realize their commonalities, and what they all shared. They also came to realize that the beginning of true social justice and social change cannot happen in top down places, that it begins in the spaces they make within themselves and with others by bringing their stories to the table, naming the problem, and building communities for change. Several students also commented on the importance of taking this into the classroom with children, so that the children can truly build democratic spaces where they construct and live in shared community.

The response to this exercise reaffirmed for me once again the importance of story and being able to define, and share our stories and hear and enage in the stories of others. Story can move us past the divisions that we construct and that are constructed for us, story can help us define the problem and develop ways of confronting and deconstructing the problem to build better places of equity. Story is powerful, it is our children's voices and we must give them every opportunity to tell their story.

I am unable to be with you all next week in Chicago, but I will be there in spirit.

Take care all, Olga

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From your mouth to our ears in Chicago.  I've heard likewise from my current students.  Stories seem to have the power to allow people to connect with one another.  Maybe it's all in the listening; when we hear other's personal narratives we tend to listen much better/harder with an empathetic ear rather than a critical or judgmental one.  Those ears separate rather than unify.  Thanks for your story but enuff with the spiritual stuff - GET YOUR BODY BACK TO CHICAGO! - luvu Sid

Hey Sid,

I think two not only do we hear with an empathetic ear, but we begin to see ourselves in the other person. And we realize what was so different really isn't or doesn't matter as much as we thought.

I am trying to get back there, won't make it this year because of this ankle infection I have struggled with for the last two months, am much better now. But I plan to be there next year, Keep me posted on this years meeting.

Luv ya, Olga

Olga, Ditto with Sid.  I so enjoyed the power of your story as it reminds just how important space for stories, especially from children is.  It also reminds me something I read from Delpit  years ago, the African American child is more likely to tell a story in response to even a closed-end question: "From the mouth of babes".  I so wish you could have joined us this year. Next year and the planning.  PEACE


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