I truly cannot believe how fast our time in Lima has flown by. It seems crazy to me that soon we will be on a plane to Cuzco, having completed three of our four weeks in Peru. My time in Peru has been amazing and also challenging for a variety of reasons. I have enjoyed getting to know the culture and the people, as well as picking up on whatever Spanish I am able. In addition, I have definitely felt linguistically inadequate several times on this trip, which is difficult to deal with, especially in settings were everything is in Spanish. With all of these different experiences and feelings, my third week in Lima is drawing to a close and I have had the opportunity to learn a lot about the different educational contexts here and also have been able to connect them with what I’ve experienced not only as a pre-service teacher, but also as a student.
We have been able to partake in a variety of educational experiences, each uniquely structured to fit the context and students which they serve. Two of the different experiences we worked with this week were: Tupac Amaru and Lombriz Feliz. As I discussed in my previous blog post, Tupac Amaru is a public school, geared to prepare their students to work in a trade for the betterment of their local community. Contextually, this approach for schooling is practical because the goal is to help the community flourish as a whole. Having students who can participate in and help their community with their trade has a positive effect on the advancement of the community. One of the things that we have talked a lot about in seminar and that has stuck with me is the idea of creativity and curiosity in education. In the article, “Shop Class as Soulcraft,” Matthew Crawford discusses the importance of manual labor in education and its connection to cultivating creativity. Crawford describes the connection that exists between the self and the product of manual work, specifically how the product of manual labor emulates its maker, a humanizing process. Therefore, Crawford makes the argument that this manifestation then enables the maker to engage creatively with their world. Consequently, he argues that critical thinking stems from manual labor and crafts, both of which we deprive students of in our schools. At Tupac Amaru, the trade is the center of the curriculum and students are encouraged to connect with their trade to explore their creativity and expression. For example, in the metalworking classroom, students welded scorpions, elephants, or bicycles, which were, as Crawford would argue, expressions of themselves. While there is a practical aspect of this type of education, it also enables students to explore their world through their own abilities and interests, making their education even more relevant for the students.
In addition to this experience, we also visited Lombriz Feliz this week. Lombriz Feliz is a community composting organization just on the outskirts of Lima. They were started in 1991 with the intent of minimizing waste and organizing their waste management. A group of German missionaries worked side by side with the community to begin a composting program. Since then, Lombriz Feliz has thrived, producing organic humus that helps plants better grow in the desert climate of Lima. The organization has also been asked to educate other communities, including wealthier communities, about how to compost successfully. One of the things that I really enjoyed learning about Lombriz Feliz is how the community came together to recognize and solve a problem. With the help of the missionaries, the community worked democratically to better itself. The Chavez and Soep article “Youth Radio and the Pedagogy of Collegiality” discusses the implications of educational relationships rooted in interdependence. The authors explain that the Youth Media program is meant to encourage shared interest and investment in a final product, which then creates not only a more robust product but also a relationship and community. The experience at Lombriz Feliz is based on this type of teaching and learning experience. The ideology behind Lombriz Feliz is communal advancement not only through participation, but by working together. Their composting requires the active participation of community members to continue the process. Consequently, the educational structure of Lombriz Feliz is relationally based and emphasizes the importance of both personal and communal contributions.
The approaches of Tupac Amaru and Lombriz Feliz demonstrate different approaches to learning than the traditional banking system of education that Freire discusses in “Pedagogy of Freedom.” Personally, I believe that a classroom should incorporate components of both. I think that capitalizing on student creativity and curiosity is essential, which Crawford suggests can be accomplished through manual labor and crafts. Allowing students to actively participate in their education through creative engagement is crucial in helping the students to maximize their full potential. Additionally, redefining the relationship between teachers and students is also important for allowing this creativity and potential to take shape in schools. Education should not be about menial bits and pieces of information but about creating confident and capable learners who are able to engage with others and their world. Consequently, teachers should provide relevance, emphasize personal value, and exist to guide students in their own self-actualization.
In connection with my own educational experiences, these are two aspects that I wish I would have seen more of in my primary and secondary education and even at university. Personally, I think younger grades tend to emphasize creativity more. I remember these classes being filled with the type of hands on work that Crawford describes, where I was encouraged to explore and create what I thought was relevant to my education in the context of the given assignment. As I got older, however, rote memorization and templated assignments and essays became the new normal. Similarly, throughout my whole educational experience, I have had few teachers who have treated their classroom as a collaborative space where teachers and students work together to learn. Instead, the teacher is the sole authority and the students are expected to observe and respect this hierarchy. With my experiences in mind, I want to take both of these aspects, cultivating an environment ripe for creativity and working side by side with students, and implement them in my future classroom because I feel that these are two key components for helping my students thrive.