What would Paulo Friere do?

Most people who know me well (or even a little bit) have heard me rave about the adult educator Paulo Friere. I am big fan of his thoughts (which he put into action) and recently I heard the coolest Paulo Friere story ever.

My mum is doing a course and she had the teacher’s of the course over to lunch. They are very passionate social activists and are obviously really good at it too. Anyway, my mum, knowing they shared my passion for Paulo Friere told them how much I liked him. One of the teachers asked me, “what do you like most about Paulo Friere” to which I responded, “I am not sure, you have really put me on the spot”. Not allowing me to get away with that he said, “Paulo Friere put people on the spot”. He was right so I made a fairly crappy response although he seemed to think it was okay and thus agreed to share with me his Paulo Friere story.

He had visited Brazil (where Paulo is from) to do some work with people living on the streets there. While there people talked over and over about Paulo Friere. Somehow he managed to get his number and after much deliberation plucked up the courage to call and organise an interview. Paulo agreed. When he arrived Paulo asked the translator if he spoke Portuguese. He said he didn’t so Paulo proceeded to speak Portuguese to the translator. After about 10 minutes he switched to a very fluent English. His point had been made though. They should have learned some of the language.

Paulo then talked for awhile about adult education, poverty, oppression, social action, all the things he is passionate and thoughtful about. The guy was trying to make notes. His switch from Portuguese to English had happened so quickly that he did not manage to put on a tape recorder. Finally, there was a pause. The guy thought, “this is my one chance to ask Paulo Friere a question”, so he did. Paulo looked at him and said something like, “it’s questions like those that are really the problem”. As the man had said Paulo was never afraid to put people on the spot.

That night he flew home, feeling himself to be completely changed by this meeting with Paulo Friere. On arrival to Australia with a bit of jetlag and the ideas floating around his head he could not sleep. He got up to try and write the interview down, seriously regretting not having been able to tape it and feeling more and more impacted on by this man. In the morning though his regret at not taping the interview and its effect on his life was even more profound when he discovered it was his last interview. Paulo Friere had died that night.

Since starting to teach I have found Paulo’s ideas hard to put into practice in the context that I teach. Hearing this story though has reinspired me to keep thinking about these issues and trying to implement them. And while I acknowledge I am still learning and need to take it slow (I bet even Paulo did in his first few months of teaching) it is good to feel inspired.

How embarassing!!

The other day I had to go to an award’s ceremony at work and accept an award. What happened was that the department I work for Territory wide had won the Vice Chancellor’s Award for something (I don’t even remember). There was a big ceremony in Darwin but then the Vice Chancellor came to Alice Springs and wanted to present the award again and because I am the only person in my department in Alice Springs I had to go and do this. This was very embarrassing for me for a number of reasons. Firstly, I have only been there for five weeks and have absolutely nothing to do with the receiving of the award but there I was none the less shaking the Vice Chancellor’s hand and having my photo taking with everybody clapping (it felt like graduation day again). Secondly, the Campus Administrator, who was announcing the award thought it would be a good time to tell everyone that I was the youngest teacher they had ever had on campus. Finally, I had, had no warning that I was to be receiving this award. I just arrived at work and was told by our admin assistant that I was to go. Unfortunately I had chosen this day to wear jeans and thongs to work. Normally this would not be an issue but all the other people receiving awards were wearing skirts and blouses and high heel shoes. It was one of those moments where I was really hoping that the ground would swallow me.

Blogging is like exercise.

Blogging is like exercise. When you are on a roll with it, it is very easy to do, it becomes part of your day and it just happens. Once you stop though starting again is really hard and while I often think of these interesting posts to write when I get to the computer it just doesn’t happen and I waste my time on facebook instead (I think I need to set some rules on that, it’s a killer). Anyway life is okay although a little overwhelming. Work is still very hard for me but I am getting there. We are still not in our house and we are all bit exhausted with it but the end is nigh I do believe (although I feel like I have said that before and it just never seems to happen).

But one of the really good things I was going to write about was that we had a really special time with all my family here to celebrate my grandfather’s 80th birthday. We had shared lots of meals and laughs and had a lovely day exploring some of the West Macs. I think it will be one of those times that we all remember for a long time. Gemma and I went with Grandma to Uluru and we had such a hoot. Even though I have been there three times now Uluru still effects me and maybe even more so now that I live here in Central Australia. My grandmother really is very impressive, 78 and can still do the three hour walk around the base. Gemma and I did the Valley of the winds walk too which I didn’t do last time so that was great.