olivia/failing at Freire

I can’t recall exactly when and where I first heard of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Perhaps in relation to following a #critlib chat on Twitter (I first discovered these in Spring 2015) or maybe in Maria T. Accardi’s Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction (which I read in Fall 2016)? Whenever it was that I first heard of it, I knew this needed to be added to my to-read list. For one, it seems to pop up in conversations a lot concerning pedagogical theory and I felt like I was missing something by not having read it. Also, ever since I heard of the banking method of teaching I’ve wanted to read more about how to not do it and Pedagogy of the Oppressed seems to be the primary source.

I received the book as a present for my most recent birthday and finally got around to picking it up a couple months ago. I was ready. I had my highlighter. I had my focus. I had the intention of reading one chapter per night. The edition I have has 40 pages of introduction, forward, and preface, so I had 40 pages of “get ready this is amazing!” to help pump me up. Then the book officially began and the rusty gears in my brain started moving. It’s like I can feel my brain working extra hard to pay attention and understand what’s happening.

I quickly realized one chapter a night wouldn’t happen, so I just accepted my original intention of pace wouldn’t work. Two chapters (and over a week, maybe two?) and I was finally able to recognize that I wasn’t actually enjoying it. Yes, Freire has groundbreaking things to say, but I felt frustrated at how much I had to focus to read it.

Now enter our dear friend imposter syndrome. I consciously work against the banking method when I design my library instruction. Quite possibly the most influential reading to my instruction practice (Accardi’s Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction) mentions Freire’s ideas, so wouldn’t reading the primary source enhance my practice even more? Shouldn’t I be able to read this? Shouldn’t I love every minute of it? Imposter syndrome is an asshole. I had to give myself permission to fail with Freire. Reading the entire book right then just wasn’t going to happen right at that point in my life.

But is it really failure? I’m glad I read what I did and there’s a very high chance I’ll pick it up again. I found his calling out of education as being a conduit for oppression to be enlightening. If I did nothing pedagogically but focus on how to implement Freire’s ideas (even just from the first few chapters) into my library instruction then I’d be doing pretty well. An issue, of course, is how can librarians work to change education outside of the one or two times we see a class per semester, but that’s a question for a different blog post (this feels related to an idea Veronica Arellano Douglas brought up in a recent ACRLog post).


The teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach (80).


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