pedagogy and practice, an introduction

I used to write a lot. I still write a lot. The difference is that today I primarily write for others, not as a means of thinking. This journal is about thinking. And learning. And sharing that which has been learned. With others.

I use the word pedagogy a lot. It’s a funny word, not only in the fact that it’s not a word that most people use, but also in that it doesn’t mean what I want to mean. It’s literal etymology, from the Greek, is to lead children. I primarily serve as an educator with adults. The literally correct term for what I do is andragogy, the practice of learning strategies with adults.  One problem with andragogy is that it’s even more obscure than pedagogy. Another is that it literally means to lead men.  That’s a little too sexist for my blood.  I’m also not keen on learning being a process of leading and, by inference, following.

John Dewey’s thinking influences me. When I think pedagogy, he’s one of the first people who come to mind. Right after Paulo Freire. And bell hooks. And Myles Horton.  John Dewey helped me to understand that we don’t learn from experience; that we learn from the ways we make meaning from experience. Sometimes I explain it to students this way. We don’t learn from the action of reading a book, we learn from thinking about, talking about, reflecting on what we’ve read in the book. It’s like this with experience, too. I don’t learn from the experiences of my daily life; I learn by connecting new experiences with all the other experiences I’ve had and with the meaning I’ve gleaned over time. When a new experience aligns with meaning from my past, it might affirm my knowledge. When an experience troubles the waters of my consciousness, I can generally assume that I’ve got some thinking to do.

This journal is likely to be prompted more by troubled waters than moments of affirmation.

I believe that we can become our own best teachers if we get really good at thinking critically about our experiences – and doing the heavy lifting of making meaning from that thinking. For me, the challenge of critical thinking is that it simultaneously requires me to suspend my expectations of an outcome and utilize everything I already know in a process of discernment. It’s a little like juggling the known and unknown. Not easy. Yet, I’m pretty much convinced that it’s a worthy goal. And, apparently, if the inauguration of this project is taken into consideration, a goal I feel worthy of sharing with others.

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