07 SES 06 A, Inclusion of Newcomers and Refugees Part 2
Paper Session continued from 07 SES 04 A, to be continued in 07 SES 09 A
Drawing on the ideas of Paulo Freire (1970), Sean Chabot (2008), Michalinos Zembylas (2017), this presentation focuses on love. However, we do not consider love as a romantic, personal or sentimental emotion. Instead, we discuss love as a pedagogical practice, with implications to all it involves. In particular, we consider the role of pedagogical love in the first stages of refugee students’ education in a new country.
Paulo Freire discussed armed love as "the fighting love of those convinced of the right and the duty to fight, to denounce, and to announce" (Freire, 1998, p. 42, as cited in Darder 2011). This kind of love can be lively, forceful, and inspiring, while at the same time, critical, challenging and insistent (Darder 2011). Sean Chabot (2008) argues that love consists of connections among individuals who work together toward a common purpose while validating each person’s uniqueness. It connects human beings with all forms of life, without distinguishing between worthy and unworthy, friends and enemies, humans and non-humans, neighbors and strangers, likeable and unlikeable creatures. From this point of view, love is based on the experience of solidarity and connections with other human and non-human species on our planet.
Zembylas (2017) as well as Lanas and Zembylas (2015) draw on the ideas of Freire and Chabot and argue that love has six sides. Love is an emotion, choice and response, but it is also relational and political, as well as praxis. With its six sides, love can be a “transformative practice which radicalizes affective connections with others and thus initiates a process of unending transformation.”
We focus on love in education, but not just as pedagogy (as it is understood in much of the Anglo-American parts of the world as a way of teaching, and thus relying on the skills of the teacher), or “a tact” used by teachers (Maatta & Uusiautti 2012). We are interested in love as a practice in education, and in the upbringing of the whole child. Theodore Schatzki (2017) argues that learning to love requires doing what it takes to perform certain actions in particular ways at the right times in the various practices with others through life. So pedagogical love from a practice perspective is not a trait or tact within individual teachers, but a co-constituted practice in the networks between and among students, teachers and educational leaders, and orchestrated by arrangements in educational sites.
Pedagogical love makes sense in all education, but it may be particularly important when working with young learners from vulnerable backgrounds such as students of refugee background as in our current studies. We know from previous research that refugee background students do not just start learning when they start school in a new country.
They have to first establish a sense of safety and a feeling of belonging. Once these are secured, children may be able to, in favourable conditions, to start to thrive towards other kinds of success (Kohli 2011). Literature on love confirms the rationale: Zembylas (2017) writes that love can work as an ethical and political intervention in histories of loss and trauma and help to make a reparative position that focuses not simply on the acknowledgement of suffering and loss, but rather on how to reconstruct sustainable lives in the host country by invoking love as a force for social change. So according to Zembylas, love opens new pedagogical spaces for hope.
Thus, this presentation asks: What can we learn about pedagogical love as a co-constituted practice between refugee background students and their teachers? What does it look like, and how does it work?
Like many other taken-for granted educational practices, pedagogical love needs to be recognized and rendered visible. As a practice (rather than a personal feeling, or overly general or abstract ideal, which would be hard to investigate), we think it can be explored within the ordinary, everyday school lives. We have explored this as part of our research entitled Educational Success through the Eyes of a Refugee Child (Kaukko & Wilkinson 2018), conducted with children, teachers and educational leaders in Finland and Australia. We have worked with 65 refugee-background students, about 30 teachers and 10 leaders in two countries, using a range of methods including interviews, drawings, observations and videos, but with a common question: what can schools do to support refugee background students. For this presentation, we have gone through the students’ and teachers interviews, as well as the video and observation data, looking for links with love as a co-constructed practice, which are “hard to communicate, but easy to identify” (using the words of Chabot 2008). We did not explicitly look for pedagogical love and we acknowledge that love cannot be reduced to single, specific acts that would be possible to observe from the outside. We acknowledge this as a limitation of the study.
We know that love-rhetoric sits awkwardly in the present day educational discourse, which is why word has been rephrased as engagement or positive school climate or caring, which we know are all important. We stick to the concept of love, remembering that in public sphere such as in education, love is not soft, wishful and romanticised ideal, and it is more than an emotion or a skill. It a practice consisting of reciprocal relationships, engagement and care and is enabled by a positive school climate. In the words of one of the participants, "He [a refugee student in primary school] needs mothering, he needs fathering, he needs socializing, he needs – so, it’s yeah, positive reinforcement, prizes and [a long pause]. I’ll use the word love because I think that that’s what they need, ultimately." We are starting to understand that pedagogical love is constantly created and re-created in everyday school lives, as teachers, students and leaders commit to actions that are fair, just and loving. And we would argue that such practices can be revolutionary acts. The importance of exploring love is the tendency to reduce teaching and learning to technocratic, instrumentalist practices as part of a teacher proofing of curriculum. The evacuation of emotions, the tacit nature of teaching and the sheer complexity of this thing called pedagogical practice is a feature of current educational systems in Finland as well as in Australia. Adopting a practice lens is important as the kinds of practices we have identified are too often taken for granted as part of ‘just the way we do things around here’. But actually these practices are the breath of life and need to be brought explicitly to the surface as they are foundational in creating the conditions that build the formation of the ‘whole child’.
Darder, A (2011). Teaching as an Act of Love: Reflections on Paulo Freire and His Contributions to Our Lives and Our Work Author(s): Counterpoints, Vol. 418, 179-194. Freire, P. (1969/2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed (30th anniversary ed.). New York: Continuum. Hegi, K., & Bergner, R. (2010). What is love? An empirically-based essentialist account. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 27(5), 620-636. Kaukko, M. & Wilkinson, J. (2018) ‘Learning how to go on’: refugee students and informal learning practices, International Journal of Inclusive Education, https://doi.org/10.1080/13603116.2018.1514080 Kohli, R. (2011). Working to Ensure Safety, Belonging and Success for Unaccompanied Asylum-seeking Children. Child Abuse Review, 20(5), 311-323. Lanas, M., & Zembylas, M. (2015). Towards a Transformational Political Concept of Love in Critical Education. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 34(1), 31-44. Maatta, K & Uusiautti, S (2012). Pedagogical Authority and Pedagogical Love--Connected or Incompatible? International Journal of Whole Schooling, 8(1), 21-39. Schatzki, T. (2017). Practices and Learning. In P. Grootenboer et al (eds) Practice Theory Perspectives on Pedagogy and Education: Praxis, Diversity and Contestation. Springer: 23-43. Zembylas, M. (2017). Love as Ethico-Political Practice: Inventing Reparative Pedagogies of Aimance in "Disjointed" Times. Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy, 14(1), 23-38.
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