The Pedagogy of Love

Pedagogy “includes but goes beyond the notion of teaching. It encompasses everything a teacher does to help students learn” (Killian, 2019). Wikipedia defines it better “the theory and practice of learning, and how this process influences, and is influenced by, the social, political and psychological development of learners”. I would, however, refer to it as the art of teaching and learning. The term pedagogy goes back to the time of Socrates. He engaged peers and individuals in an argumentative dialogue, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking in order to draw out ideas, underlying beliefs or assumptions. This method of inquiry later came to be known as the Socratic method.

So, what is the Pedagogy of Love? It is an approach to learning and teaching with learners’ needs in mind. Understanding where the learner comes from, where they are going and taking them through a journey where they can reach their goal(s) and beyond. It involves loving the learner in a way that challenges him or her to do things that they may not be comfortable with and reach their potential.

Yes, teachers should love their students, it is the reason for their existence. There are several ways of doing this, but I have chosen to highlight the following. A teacher can exercise the pedagogy of love by cultivating an effective student-teacher relationship, creating a safe learning environment, and understanding the needs of the learners. Some of the theories of learning supporting this idea are social constructionism, constructivism and social constructivism.

Cultivating An Effective Student-Teacher Relationship

Below are a few approaches to achieving this.

Choice — Allowing students to learn a concept through ways that are appealing to them, the whole goal is to use different paths and arrive at the same destination(depending on what the learning objectives are ). Choice can be enhanced by having many learning activities designed to meet the many learning styles that the students have.

CaringStudents don’t care how much you know until you show them how much you care”(Ruhl,2015). This is the most effective and inspiring way of teaching. A teacher should be a guide in class, a coach, a mentor, someone who inspires the learners.

Creating a relationship with the learner can help a teacher understand how the learner is doing outside class. Paulo Freire and Bell Hooks really emphasize the relationship between the teacher and the student inside and outside the classroom. Facilitation(having a teacher as a guide in class) makes the teacher more important rather than reducing their relevancy.

Creating a Learning Environment

In creating a learning environment, classrooms not only need to be safe spaces but also brave spaces. In safe spaces, the students are allowed to engage with one another over controversial issues with honesty, sensitivity and respect. This sounds great, right? However, having “safe spaces” is not enough. Marginalized or minority groups in a class may feel unsafe. The authentic expression of the pain of oppression may likely result in dismissal and condemnation as hypersensitive or unduly aggressive. In this case, some students may feel targeted or attacked, as there is a likelihood of a tussle between the dominant group and the oppressed group, this may lead to heightened pain, discomfort and resentment.

Therefore, it is difficult to foster critical dialogue regarding social justice by making a classroom a “safe space” a place where teachers rule out conflict. It has to be a “brave space” where everyone is challenged, with a lot of vulnerability, exposure and this might make one a feel “unsafe”. The truth is “discomfort is not the same as a violation of safety” (Staab,2020). Learning involves the risk and pain of giving up a former condition for a new way of seeing things. Safety is not the same as comfort. Sometimes the best learning is attained in moments of discomfort.

Power matters. Not all ideas are equal, but all people are. It is your job to protect your most vulnerable students from hatred and bigotry but do so with love for all your students”(Staab,2020). Learning can be uncomfortable, not all ideas are equal but people are. Classroom management is key, making sure that every student feels safe and included irrespective of their “great” or “not so great” ideas. Making a classroom environment, that is brave, allowing students to express themselves and challenging themselves in a way that they can learn from one another through dialogue, engagement basically shared learning. A classroom practice enforces brave spaces is setting norms such as:-

Controversy With Civility— Where diverse views are expected and honoured with a whole group committed to understanding sources of disagreement and work collaboratively towards a common ground or solution.

Own Your Intentions and Impact— Acknowledging that our intentions in class and impact matter, understanding that the impact of our actions may not be consistent with our intentions. Positive or neutral intentions do not sanction a negative impact.

Challenge Yourself — Do you believe that you hold an unpopular opinion? Are you afraid of how others will react to your thoughts? Or are you simply tired, not able to contribute to this class?

Respect — In this norm, a teacher can support a class (not lead it to a consensus) in maintaining increased mindfulness of various ways that they can demonstrate respectfulness to one another. (Arao & Clemens, 2013).

It may seem hard to do all these things, but it is a way to care and show love for your students as a teacher.

By Asking the Right Questions

Questioning and eliciting in class is important. The purpose is to be able to build learners skills in critical thinking and it also promotes rigorous inquiry. A teacher will be engaging the students in thinking about the process of learning. The goal is to push students to understand the lesson and more importantly to make the students make the realisation on their own. (The ah-ha! moment ). Below are some approaches that can assist a teacher to go about it.

  1. The wait time, this technique is combined with a higher-order, open-ended questions, students are challenged and more engaged. Asking a difficult question and then wait for 5–10 second for the hands to go up.
  2. The words phrasing the question are key. Depending on the lesson that a teacher is teaching, let the questions be simple with a few words. Think about why you are questioning. What goal are you trying to achieve? What is the purpose of this? And allow for flexibility, a teacher shouldn’t be too rigid.
  3. Keeping it simple, questions that are clear and concise might include, what do you think? Why do you think that? How do you know this? Can you tell me more? What questions do you still have?

In the midst of this pandemic and at the heart of the current learning crisis the learners need their teachers more. The pedagogy of love is one way that can be practised even through remote learning. It is but one solution to the current challenge where according to UNESCO about 617 million students in school globally, are not learning. In applying the above classroom practices you are in the right direction towards providing access to quality education and solving the learning crisis.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Drop a comment.

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Martin Wairimu

Martin Wairimu

I believe in a world where every child has access to quality education irrespective of their social-economic background. Exploring pedagogy as a solution.