Once again, I find myself digging around Freire’s book, Teachers as cultural workers: letters to those who dare to teach (2005) searching for inspiration and a reminder of the significance of our work as teachers. Today it is this gem that stands out,
“Only rarely does a text lend itself to the reader’s curiosity” (p.54).
Perhaps this statement has grabbed my attention today because in reading Freire’s works I feel I am the living proof of this reality – his text certainly doesn’t seem to lend out free insights. Instead, I find myself working in earnest to capture his meanings and understand what he is writing about. Were I not curious, I am certain I would give up the pursuit, surrendering to my lack of immediate comprehension. But something keeps me here at my desk reading and re-reading the paragraphs, searching for gold as it were. His writing, personified in my imagination, seems to stubbornly refuse to be casually read, inviting only the hungry and determined to feed on his wisdom. It is, as he says, only when we come with “the intent and the pleasure of unveiling meaning”, that we truly find the understanding and insights we crave (p.54).
The writer of Proverbs in the Bible alludes to this from another perspective, describing the searching out of a matter as, ” the glory of kings” (Proverbs 25:1-3). Proverbs distinguishes the occupation of searching out a matter as the occupation of kings – the occupation of those who would shape and influence cities and kingdoms. Wisdom does not always come easily but for those who are willing to persevere, its treasures are waiting.
In light of this, how important it is that we create cultures in our schools that motivate students to persevere and overcome when ideas don’t come easily and when comprehension evades them. It becomes crucial that our teaching leads learners (and ourselves) to seek, to question, to re-read, to persevere and to believe that wisdom can be found – even when it appears illusive.
Understanding demands grunt, effort, sweat and a persevering heart. And in our pursuit of understanding through study, we “encounter pain, pleasure, victory, defeat, doubt, and happiness” (p.52). Such demands on the human heart and mind can never be imposed, but must instead be embraced by the learner.
We must ask ourselves continually, what we are doing towards, “awakening and keeping alive children’s curiosity” (p.57), to ensure that when they face obstacles in their comprehension that their response is to press in with a critical mind, knowing that answers are there for those willing to search them out.