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April 4, 2014 by Peter Cantillon
Teachers as peddlers of culture
Paulo Freire described teachers as cultural workers in a monograph entitled “teachers as cultural workers – letters to those who dare teach”. His context was Danish teachers and their role in increasing awareness of inter-culturalism in their classrooms and in society. When thinking about clinical educators, one can also conceive of them as cultural workers. They are both representatives of and performers within various intersecting professional and organisational cultures. The words they use, the way they present themselves, the manner in which they dress, their disposition with other professions and so on, are all representations of culture. In terms of organisational culture teachers wear identification badges indicating belonging, role and rank. Where and how teachers teach is dictated by organisational norms and regulations. The teaching approaches used and the words selected are all likely to be very much and formed by professional culture and norms. Teachers are also unwitting conduits of clinical and professional educational culture from those who taught them, those that they work with etc to the student audiences that they engage with. They share values and practices without necessarily thinking about where such values and practices came from. They are just taken for granted. They represent things that the teacher “just knows”. Have a think next time you find yourself teaching in the clinical setting about the messages that are communicated by your clothes, The physical positions that you occupy, the gestures that you use, your favourite words and phrases, the stories that you tell (and the ones that you do not tell),your positioning vis-a-vis patients and professional colleagues. You may, on reflection, be able to delineate the meanings that you want to communicate, but how will you know the meanings, (cultural messages) that have been construed by students? How can we shake ourselves into awareness as we teach?