I think I have been to the bank too much

See below for my word vomit.

I was introduced to  Paulo Freire this week. Interesting dude. Freire is who we have to thank for the concept of critical pedagogy where basically students are finally seen as something other than trash cans for rote knowledge.

As I was reading through the course materials, one quote kept popping up that just felt like a lightning rod to my academic soul.

“Intellectuals who memorize everything, reading for hours on end . . .fearful of taking a risk, speaking as if  they were reciting from memory, fail to make any concrete connections between what they have read and what is happening in the world, the country, or the local community.  They repeat what has been read with precision but rarely teach anything of  personal value.”

This quote about sums up a large bit of my undergraduate and graduate experience. I wish this were not the case, but it feels that way. This is also the very thing I am trying to combat now as I am shaping myself up to become a teacher. Man, is it challenging. After so many years of being in the back seat of the car (not even the passenger seat), it takes a lot of energy and willpower to muster up the courage to teach applying a critical pedagogical style. I fortunately function in an academic-verse where critical pedagogy is a bit more tangible then perhaps the “real sciences” might be.

In Freire’s work, he discusses how teachers have often applied the “banking approach” wherein teachers dictate knowledge as fact and students accept it as verse. I can safely say that has been my experience for a number of classes, but I also ashamedly admit that sometimes I just wanted to accept the deposit as a student and move on with my daily life. I try not to be that way, but sometimes it is an unchangeable feeling. I also grew up in a world where my teacher was my authoritarian figure, but then as I aged I knew it had to be challenge and changed. I can see why Freire is considered an empowering force for teachers and students alike. His pedagogy opens doors not previously accessible to everyone, especially marginalized populations. That is all rather exciting, and, I feel, in spirit with what education is meant to be: freeing.

It sounds like Freire is trying to change the world’s mind that instead of programming our tiny human robots, that we should be fighting this. Freeing this mind. I can only think of a handful of my teachers that even attempted this approach with us students. I think most are generally going through the motions either because they have taught the class 900 times before, or it is a material they do not feel can be taught in any other way but in a banking approach, or that they think the students are just there to be told information and move on.

I must admit that I am not fully sure how I can properly incorporate this pedagogical style into my classes, and I would welcome some guidance on that. Given my area of expertise is tourism and events, I think I am meant for this pedagogical style.

9 thoughts on “I think I have been to the bank too much”

  1. Thanks for this personalized post. It shows a lot of who you are, not just information relative to the course content. That seems to be right along the lines of what is intended by critical pedagogy! It does sound like you are in a perfect field to focus on this type of teaching. I am in counseling, so similarly, human experience is highly valued over rote memorization. I’ll admit that I’ve had moments of slipping back into the banking style of learning because it is often easier and more familiar. I had a lot of money in the bank in undergrad. I put the information in and smoothly pulled it back out when test time rolled around. That worked great until I got into graduate education for counseling, when I was faced with an approach much more like Freire would suggest. Now that I’m on the teaching end of that, some of the feedback that I have recently received from students is that I should bring more of myself into the classroom instead of only focusing on the material. It helps the students learn from my personal and professional experiences while showing them that I am human also. That is something that I am working on, so I appreciate how much of “you” can been seen in this post.

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  2. Thanks! I have the same feeling that I grew up without much training in critical thinking. The question is: how could we practice critical pedagogy if we were not trained in this way? I think awareness is the first step. Whenever we pour knowledge to our students unconsciously, we should think of the “banking” education and make every effort to stop this tendency. Then the pedagogical styles to achieve critical pedagogy can be many, and depend on the instructor’s personality.

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  3. Great post Meghan! I have also been to the bank a little too much and can connect with what you are trying to fight at this time. We are all here to help you and I think when we get to PBLs you will be able to take up a challenge and see what you can create with Freire’s concepts in mind.

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  4. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I think I have similar feelings towards critical pedagogy. I like the free and advanced thoughts included in the critical pedagogy, but I feel it is a bit hard to apply it to the real life. First, teachers who taught us among the past years used the bank way a lot, so it is hard for us to find real-life role model of using critical pedagogy. Second, it is a little bit trick to make balance when you want to treat students as fellow learners as you, and you want to keep some authority part as their teacher. I think I will try to use more critical pedagogy in the future, but I am not that sure if I can make a good balance, I might need to try it out.

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  5. There are times I need to make sure that information is “deposited” into my students. Sometimes I make sure that I discuss why that information was “deposited”to them and its relevance to what they are studying. Other times, I am not as successful. I have found that active learning is crucial in this task.

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    1. I don’t think you need to be ashamed to want to be a passive learner. Even in class and during discussions I’m really interested in, the temptation is there to just soak up the information to regurgitate it later (especially when I’m averaging 3.5 hours of sleep). We can’t be critical, investigative learners with ever subject and every topic out there–Who’s got the time/energy for that? We have to figure out what is important to us and our future life/career goals, and the rest will have to take a backseat.

      I teach Public Speaking, and multiple times I’ve had students mention their “more important” projects or classes to me. It’s irritating in the moment to think that my students aren’t giving their all to critically think about the concepts and components that make up PS, but, on reflection, I know some students are just interested in gaining experience and confidence in PS. They save the critical thinking to those “important” in-major classes.

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  6. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in this post. I absolutely agree that so often classrooms seem to be the teacher talking to the class, instead of talking with. I can see why this is a lot easier for most, but its not conducive to creating a healthy learning environment. Exploring different pedagogical methods is key if you want to make true change in your students.

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  7. I have to agree with you that I have been the bank too much as well, in both my undergraduate and graduate degree. I feel that some courses have to be a bank model because of numerous amount of topics that have to be covered in such a short time. This is particularly true in most engineering courses because of the accreditation process. The professors are required to teach certain topics in order to be accredited. Therefore, it is more about depositing as much material on to the student as possible. With the current society, we constantly have to remain competitive.

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  8. I think sometimes memorization can be useful. It has been extremely useful for me to memorize certain abstract theoretical models that can mapped onto reality or real world particular circumstances, conditions, etc.

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