the new classroom

Teachers and educators have the challenge of transforming the classroom into a dynamic space for change and possibility. Classroom in this sense means any space where learning occurs – schools, community centers, homes, sports fields, art centers, etc. Youth education is a messy field and the text Critical Pedagogy attempts to outline the methods teachers can adopt to educate and mentor their students. This primer emphasizes the role of education and schooling in building the future: “Schools and the everyday classroom should share in the building of the social order of the future” (204).

An example of putting this teaching philosophy into practice is seen in the work Tim Rollins does with the group K.O.S. – Kids Of Survival. Rollins uses art workshops and transformative media projects to connect with youth in the Bronx and instill in them a sense of pride and responsibility in their own education. Rollins subscribes to the idea that teachers are guides, they are resources, not all-knowing gurus. He creates a curriculum based on art and creative expression but he is aware of the limitations of his educational system: “Art can’t undo years of abuse. But it can be used to tap into the hurt and make the pain better”.

Teaching youth is as much about the process as the product. Kids learn in different ways so a fixed rigid curriculum teaching to a test isn’t going to work for most people. Education should occur as a space for youth to explore their identities. A proper education equips youth with the tools to make their own way, to take responsibility for their own career and life. When using creative forms of teaching, through art or sports, the students feel a sense of accomplishment and can show off their progress to an audience. Public forums are extremely valuable to a child’s development – debates, spelling bees, art shows, athletic tournaments – they all provide an opportunity to show off the products of education.

Another key point in the Critical Pedagogy method is creating a curriculum with an emphasis on the collaborative process of learning. Students teach each other and teach the teacher, it is a constantly evolving process that benefits all involved – not simply a top-down method. As humans we are social beings, we do not go through life as isolated individuals so youth need to learn early on how to play and work with others, and cultivate those solid relationships that foster teamwork and respect for others. Even though sports don’t fit into the traditional schooling pattern, they are undoubtedly a space for education and a new type of classroom.