Hello from the other side

In our last blog post we wrote about different realities and how important it is for teachers to reflect their own behavior. But what really happens after teachers become aware of their behavior and assumptions? It can be overwhelming to notice how little one person can do. In Fischman’s and Haas’ article (2009) there is an example of a teacher who said that she use to have so-called Hello Kitty hopes. She meant that she had unrealistic hopes about what she can do as a teacher. One claim of critical pedagogy is that teachers have a central role in challenging educational systems. Although they cannot do all by themselves. It is unrealistic to hope to be a super-caring-knowledgeable-efficient-teacher all the time. In other words teachers can’t always be conscious and prepared for every situation. More important is that teachers are committed to their work and learn from their mistakes. Being a teacher (or a human) is a continuous learning process. It is okay to be lost sometimes and have bad days. We all do. But there is always something that we can do in our daily lives to communicate better with each other.

In lesson we talked about the concept of safer spaces, which offers us one aspect how we could respect diversity in interaction with others. Safer space can be understood as a place, which is welcoming, engaging and supportive environment that encourages open-mindedness, respect and a willingness to learn from others. Safer space is also critical of the power structures that affect our daily lives where power dynamics, backgrounds and the effects of our behaviour on others are prioritizes. Safer places are quite sensitive in nature and we might make a place unsafe without even realizing it. When we interact with others we might easily make assumptions based on their appearance and behaviour. For example we can assume that someone is a girl or a boy by the way they are dressed even though we have no knowledge of their thoughts concerning gender. Or we could categorize something as ‘abnormal’ if it seems different from that perspective what we consider ‘normal’. By saying that something is ‘normal’, we also renew cultural hegemony and power structures that also creates the feeling of social exclusion. The aspect of ‘normality’ also implicitly refers that some are more privileged than others.

The idea of the privileged was central also regarding Allen’s (2009) article “What About Poor White People?”. Being privileged is also one aspect of the reality that often remains unveiled especially within school context. There can also be false beliefs in terms of how being privileged is understood and particularly in relation to whom one considers to be privileged. To water it down, Finnish Whites can e.g. consider themselves to be privileged relative to people living in the poor countries or areas of Africa but not necessarily relative to a non-white Finn even though Allen (2009, 212) points out: “ – – that relative to people of color all Whites are privileged by a system of White supremacy – -”. The big question is then according to Pease (2010, iix), if it is possible for members of privileged groups to overcome the interests of their own group. Pease (2010) addresses this theme of privileged wider and in a very interesting way in his book “Undoing Privilege: unearned advantage in a divided world”. Probably the main agenda of the piece is as Pease (2010, ix) expresses it, to acknowledge that oppression is not understood without the understanding of privilege. That said, it would be very important for all people to ponder one’s own position in relation to others and teachers can set an example by reflecting and addressing the concept of privilege and in that way pay attention on such things as safer spaces more widely in the fields of education and working life as well. These kind of soft values (which safer spaces could probably be considered) as making atmosphere safe to everyone in the group would probably have a huge influence to efficiency and other harder values as well. It’s also interesting to discuss all the things that affect on this concept and to question the way we behave ourselves in groups and different environments. Am I making this space safer as far as I’m concerned? When talking about safer spaces it’s also essential to notice, as already mentioned above, the fact that we are all humans making mistakes. The important question probably is how we can learn from those mistakes and remember something about this lesson later on. The idea on reflecting your own behaviour doesn’t mean that you couldn’t let yourself be incomplete. And last but not least, it’s good to remember that you should try to make the space safe for yourself as well, not only for the others.

Group D: Annika, Minna, Paula & Sorella

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