Is Your Classroom a Protectorate?

It finally dawned on me that as a teacher, if  I have an incessant need to control and have complete and outmost authority in the classroom, then guess what?  That. Makes. Me. A. Coloniser. I said it. It isn’t entirely our fault because sometimes we do teach as we were taught and we inherited a curriculum. It is a systemic issue.

It has been a few months experimenting with student agency a couple of fails and  I have come to a realisation that  student agency isn’t a fad that is here for the trend and just the hype of it. It is human. At the core of humanity and our existence.

We are agentic beings which means denying my learners an opportunity to inquire and dictate what they choose to do is violence.  It goes against human nature. Which is why  they are bored lifeless when I keep shoving  rubrics in their faces because as humans, their learning cannot be compartmentalised. It cannot be pigeonholed.

My role as a teacher wasn’t meant to be restricted to being a source of information. I am meant to listen, offer advice, understand, empower as they travel this tumultuous journey of inquiry and self discovery. My role isn’t to create benchmarks which let us be honest, are usually meant to rank children and compare them against each other or narrow what our expectations of them are. But working together as allies to beat the system, we rewrite benchmarks to make sense to each individual, we navigate them our own way, we are outlandish in how we express ourselves and we are occupying our space and doing it loudly, annihilating the tick-boxes just so we can be us.

If my learners left my class unaware that  it is okay to be on a self discovery journey where you feel supported and heard then I would have failed as a teacher.

I have to make a conscious decision every day to check myself, that I do not come up with the bar for what is considered the norm, that because as human beings we are always changing and evolving and that it is okay, that is what matters. That we work together to create structures that help us learn, that I do not have all the information and that is fine, that I m constantly learning from them. Their opinion is as good as mine, I am one of them. That report cards aren’t something that I sit down and conjure up. We do this together. We do make decisions together, we vote and decide, even when it goes against what I think. That they are here now, they are human and they count, they matter. That I will empower them with tools against an oppressive society that feeds off their complacency and twists them into conforming beings.

As a Ugandan on a journey of decolonisation, I understand what it means not to meet the standards and be expected to conform. I get it when you do not fit a box and have to bend yourself so that you fit someone-else’s expectations.

 

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