Education, the process of taking in and applying information, is an important part of life that directly impacts an individual’s judgement and reasoning of both themselves and society. A person’s educational experience has the ability to influence their life despite their intelligence level or home life situation. In Paulo Freire’s book, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, two major learning styles, the “banking” concepts and the “problem-posing” methods of education, and their effects on students are discussed.
My personal early education was within a public school system in the small town of Canton, Massachusetts. While public schools are often stereotyped as being both diverse and inferior compered to private schools, my high school was mainly white and Roman Catholic and it contained many students that were academically focused and capable of getting accepted to prestigious colleges such as the University of Miami. In my experience, certain teachers within this school system have helped me to see, through a process of trial and error, the best way I take in new information. My education has undoubtedly been molded by a combination of both the “banking” concept and the “problem-posing” method and has allowed me to develop into the person that I am today.
Being from a public school of a relatively small suburb in the Northeast, I have been pressured since the start of my education to learn in order to pass a government issued exam. Even as early as third grade, the focus of my teachers was to prepare their students for the dreaded statewide MCAS exam. The majority of my school memories from elementary school are of me practicing for the essay portion of this exam and being taught to use “50 cent” vocabulary words that would catch a grader’s attention and help us students gain a higher score. Yet, at this age, I did not really give my education too much thought. I automatically assumed that this type of mechanical drilling was the only way to do well in school and ultimately to make my parents and the people I cared about proud of me.
As I grew older, I have realized that I will never know the true reason that my teachers chose to teach to standardized tests. Their reasons for this may have been purely self-interested and inspired by incentives such as receiving an extra pay bonus. Still, I personally believe that the intentions of my earliest teachers were mainly benevolent and helped to prepare me for my later education.
As a starting point for learning, elementary school teachers are expected to tell students what they needed to know. Even though a large portion of this process may include having the “receive, memorize, and repeat” information as if they are almost robotic, this instills them with a set of skills that will become critical in the later part of their education (Freire 260). While it may seem that an elementary school teacher who teaches with this method would have little to no impact on how a student will succeed in life, these educators taught me educational techniques that I still value to this day.
Many of the experiences that I have had with these teachers have taught me the importance of personal management. If my teachers had not placed an emphasis on the importance of organization and structure, and its relationship to success, then I would not be able to handle having a large study workload. Also, by introducing me to the importance of competition at a young age, I have been motivated to accomplish more academically and outside of the classroom than I would have without their guidance.
Even though the initial principles of this “banking concept of drilling information into students may appear to be oppressive and constrictive, the benefits received by both the instructor and the student typically serve their best interests and satisfy what the student is looking to gain from their education. Therefore, I believe that it is slightly inaccurate to deem this educational method purely as a means of depositing information from one person to another. I am thankful that a portion of my education has been similar to that of the “banking” concept because it has given me the framework to pursue more advanced studies.
Although a portion of my academic career has been somewhat impersonal and standardized, I was fortunate enough to take a class that gave me a chance to both think critically and cognitively while learning new material. In my junior year of high school, I was able to take an Advanced Placement history class that has brought my style of learning to a more advanced level. In this history class, the teacher gave us a schedule of what we would be doing each day of the current unit we were in that was very similar to a college syllabus.
Each day of class we came prepared with background information on the topic we would be learning about which was reinforced by the teacher giving us an almost daily quiz. Although at the time taking these quizzes was tedious, it allowed for the class to discuss numerous historical topics in a short period of time. Our teacher, with the use of technology, presented different copies of primary sources to the class which led to a natural and flowing discussion of different topics. That history class was unlike any other course I had taken in the past and, while it was still challenging, I was able to do well and I scored a high grade on the AP test.
I believe that the reason for both my personal success and that of many others in my class was due to the fact that my teacher combined methods of both the “banking” concepts and the “problem-posing” methods that were presented in Freire’s article. Instead of pretending to know all of the answers, my teacher posed problems to us students that we were able to work together to solve (Freire 265). While I was challenged academically to think on a critical and comprehensive level, there were certain aspects of that type of learning that required me to simply fill my brain with information. Without taking the time to learn basic facts and concepts of a certain subject, I would have never been able to insightfully discuss or give a knowledgeable opinion on it.
Only by putting in a substantial amount of individual effort was I able to grasp anything that my teacher or classmates would say during a lecture or discussion. Although this experience may appear to solely support the “problem-posing method”, without the initial instruction of my early teachers to be self motivated to learn and do well in my classes, I would have believed that spending time studying outside of the classroom was pointless and that without a teacher I would be incapable of learning anything. Therefore, my academic growth that occurred during my junior year would not have been possible if I did not have such influential elementary school teachers.
My educational experience over the past twelve years has definitely established me as the student that I am today. While many aspects of growing up in a small town in the Massachusetts with many similar types of people surely affected my education, it is certainly my teachers who have made the largest impact on me. With both the initial guidance from my elementary school teachers and with the introduction of critical thinking that was introduced by my history teacher, I have developed a style of learning that feature aspects of both the “banking” concept of education and the “problem-posing” method and this has proven to be successful for me in the past.
Still, I hope that as I begin to continue my education at the University of Miami and possibly even in graduate school, that I will continue to grow as a student. In the future, I plan to take many different courses and be exposed to new types of thinking that will help me to develop intellectually. If I follow this path one day I may possibly be able to perfect my learning style and develop an efficient method that will help to bring me both success and knowledge in the future.