Danger Danger!!

Bishop O'Dowd High SchoolIn classroom, elements of danger are sometimes very desirable (p251)

Maybe in Ms. Coonrod’s chemistry class you might agree immediately with Brookfield’s quote taken from chapter eighteen of The Skillful Teacher, but maybe not so much with your everyday literature lesson. Throughout this chapter Brookfield discusses how we can exercise “Teacher Power Responsibly”. This quote closes the chapter describing how its is important for the learner to be challenged, although this sounds obvious its relevance in this capacity is beyond the learner. Imagine that you are facilitating a learner centered activity; typically, the learner will remain within their comfort zone, circling ideas and discussion that are familiar to them. In this scenario you could then justifiably and responsibly enforce your power by encouraging the learner to engage in deeper thought, to think critically and outside of their normal realm of thought. I say ‘responsibly’ and ‘encourage’ because in this example it could be very easy to overturn the learners control of the activity, rendering it much less useful for all. This chapter is littered with an abundance of quite delicious quotes, this by bell hooks really summarizes my point; the teacher can easily “diminish….or enrich” (1989, p52) when it comes to learning.

This chapter talks of many areas of how the teacher can exercise power responsibly, for example making our expectations transparent. How can we legitimately ask for our students to accept our criticism, if they were not acutely aware of our expectations? Brookfield also discusses the importance of managing our classrooms, keeping order, not allowing the unnecessary elements of ‘life’ cloud learning. The reason this chapter rang out so true for me is because with many of the discussions, my thoughts flickered back to a recent journal I wrote which discussed encouraging “shock, contradiction and risk” within our classrooms; danger, if you will. I talked of, (but gave no example) of how “mayhem” within my classroom was often successful.

…Maybe “mayhem” is a little strong, “hectic normality” is probably a better description, either way, my current classroom is full of teenage boys with a plethora of dilemmas and opinions and bicep size. Sprinkle that with a little  competitiveness and the classes sometimes get rather lively, almost dangerous if I’m honest. It is this exact situation where I indeed need to utilize the power that I have to channel energy and discussion in the required direction. Admittedly, it feels like sometimes the stars have to align for the outcomes that the curriculum dictates to be met, but with a little gentle facilitation, they usually find their way. Brookfield’s fourth assumption is “College Students of Any Age Should Be Treated as Adults” (p 23) by allowing the ‘boys’ to battle it out as adults… debate, become critical, reflective…challenge each other and themselves, the ‘danger’ in my experience, is certainly desirable.

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