The road that disappeared #HortonFreire

When I first saw the #hortonfreire book discussion on twitter, I immediately wanted to jump in. The posts and discussions were so rich and so exactly what I needed. However, I am also very aware that my time is more limited, and my attention more scattered, than I would like.  I ordered my book, and I began sneaking 15-20 minutes here and there to read and make notes.  Today, was the first day I had to sit down and start making sense of those notes (and I am sad at how late I am to the discussion.) However, when I went to get my book, I discovered it was gone. My mom visited over the weekend, and I realized I saw her reading it.  A quick call confirms she took it with her as she was enjoying both the reading and trying to figure out my margin notes.  And this post becomes a discussion about my mom.

First, let me tell you a little about my mom. She is almost 77. She retired from teaching 13 years ago, only to begin a second teaching career in her retirement at the institution where I teach. It is kind of a full circle, as I began my teaching career, over 20 years ago at the institution where she taught. In the past two years, she has undergone a huge transition. It started with redesigning the online course she was teaching and my eportfolio project.

Over the years, we have talked a lot about teaching, and I can distinctly remember the strong conversations about the shifting attitudes about teaching. The idea of moving from the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the site” caused her untold frustration. She was of the camp that believed that as the teacher, she had a responsibility to teach and that meant sharing her knowledge and showing students right way to write and research and generally be an academic. That is not to say she was not empathetic or concerned about her students; it was that she was so passionately concerned that she felt she couldn’t let them down.  We had many challenging conversations as my approach to teaching is very different, but then my approach to learning and my needs as a learner are also very different.

Over the weekend, she said to me that she feels somewhat embarrassed and worried that she had let students down over the years. As we talked, she said she has such a different view of her students and their learning today than she did, 10 years ago or even three years ago. She delights in them taking ownership of their learning, and she has shifted to an entirely different grading system, one where students have choices over what they do to complete the course. She has fully embraced the eportfolio which she feels gives her a much greater sense of who they are and creates a more personal relationship with them. She feels like the eportfolio is something that is really meaningful for the students and that ownership has transformed her classes.  Overall, she reports feeling more satisfied and more connected to her students than she has in over 35 years of teaching.

This spring she is adopting #OER for her classes. She is one of the first faculty in our discipline to do so. She is so excited!  And I can’t be happier for her. She is not sure how much longer she will teach, but to spend her last few years revolutionizing her teaching has been rejuvenating for her, and inspiring for me.

So, when I called today, to see if she had the book, she said she did, and she didn’t think I would mind because I have been so busy. And I don’t mind. I will wait to get the book back, and maybe my conversation with my mother will become my very late contribution to #hortonfreire.


3 thoughts on “The road that disappeared #HortonFreire

  1. Just a lovely story. I love how this demonstrates the law of unintended consequences so very well. When Bryan suggested this book it would have been impossible to predict this set of adjacencies. Complexity just ain’t manageable. And that’s why Horton and Friere are so important–they don’t even try. In fact they consider it counterproductive to do so. Purpose and passion arise from the folk. That’s why your mother’s observations and changing teaching practices are so valuable–they are counter-models from those who have lots of experience and who have evolved. thanks so much for this post. Hope to read more on your blog and on twitter.


    1. Thanks for the comment, Terry. It has been a good opportunity to observe in action those connections. In my dissertation, I am focused on Complex Adaptive Systems as a framework, so when you say “complexity just ain’t manageable” I hear you!! I am interested in how organizations foster this kind of unpredictability and what arises from it- I certainly wouldn’t have predicted that the book would impact my mother so much or that it would connect into my scholarship.


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