Education Expert Gives Advice to Future Teachers

Claremont Graduate University, Pitzer College and Pomona College have teamed up to increase opportunities and support for 5C students interested in pursuing careers in education. 

Peter McLaren, Distinguished Professor in Critical Studies and co-director of the Paulo Freire Democratic Project at Chapman University, spoke Feb. 24 at Pitzer College’s Broad Center in the first of this semester’s workshop series for the “Teaching for Social Justice” program. In his presentation to approximately 65 attendees from both the 5Cs and greater community, McLaren spoke on critical theory in education and the important role teachers play in facilitating effective change around the world. 

“For me, becoming a classroom teacher in public schools is one of the most honorable and important vocations in the world today,” McLaren wrote in an email to TSL. “Becoming a teacher is many things, but I believe that one of the roles of a critical educator is to counter the lies and deceptions of the mass media while inspiring students with love and hope conjugated with a thirst for equality and justice.”

McLaren shared his own experiences as a young teacher and evolution as an educator, stemming from his time as an elementary school educator in the 1970s. His belief in a critical theory approach to education evolved out of his experiences in the classroom, in which he found the need for reflective analysis. As such, McLaren emphasized the need for teachers to think contrarily and not be afraid to challenge educational and institutional structures. 

“Become fearless teachers, even unto your last breath, and hope that such fearlessness will lead to wisdom. And such wisdom will lead to a transformation of this world to another world where love and justice prevail,” wrote McLaren“I would encourage young people to go forth and teach, acting lovingly. For it is only by teaching that you can learn, and only by learning that you are fit to teach.”

McLaren’s lecture is one of four events in this spring’s workshop series “Teaching for Social Change.” The program is part of a co-curricular collaboration between Claremont Graduate University’s Teacher Education Program, Pitzer College’s Community Engagement Center (CEC) and Pomona College’s Draper Center, and aims to increase support for 5C students interested in education, teaching and schooling. 

DeLacy Ganley, director of CGU’s Teacher Education program, has long noticed an interest in teaching among 5C students and sees the project as a “springboard for conversations to happen on a more informal basis.” 

Since there are no degree programs in education for 5C students, the collaborative program provides a space for students to think about teaching both as an academic subject and a practical skill set. The program hosted its first four-part workshop series last fall, with a focus on practical skills in education. Workshops touched on the themes of literacy, thinking about institutional blocks, working effectively with young children and culturally responsive teaching. 

Tessa Hicks Peterson, Assistant Vice President of Community Engagement and associate professor of urban studies at Pitzer, views the program as a unique opportunity for 5C students to gain more hands-on experience in education. 

“It’s kind of a partnership that’s a win-win because it gives students practical skills and theoretical knowledge for more effective and critical teaching,” Hicks Peterson said. 

The next workshop in the “Teaching for Social Change” program series will feature a screening of the documentary TEACH March 10 in CGU’s Albrecht Auditorium. 

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