Today I had one of those moments of teaching that you dream about after watching sentimental movies like Goodbye Mr Chips or that one with Robin Williams and the desks.
I'm lucky enough to be teaching undergraduate education students in a unit of Indigenous cultural studies, aimed at helping them embed Indigenous perspectives in their teaching practice. Some of the students have been having a hard time learning to understand that their cultural and historical perspective is not the only one. The responses have been varied. One young fellow ignores everything everyone else says and repeats the same comments every week. One women struggles away silently, but occasionally introduces a novel or insightful way of thinking. And today someone just got it. He changed his mind. He really, really did.
In his own time, he came to me to discuss his A- essay to ask how he could improve his work. He then discussed, with great insight, the topic of that assignment in a way that demonstrated that he'd continued to think about it after handing it in. In fact, if he'd included the analysis he made during our conversation in his submitted work he would certainly have been an A+.
After this moment he went on to talk about his developing views on Indigenous education and cross-cultural education, and how the material in the class was challenging his cultural assumptions. He talked about how one of the teachers from the school he went to said to him 'Indigenous studies, why would you want to do that?' and he had his first inkling of the institutionalised racism that Indigenous kids face, and the willingness of non-Indigenous kids and adults to let Indigenous people be invisible in the education system.
I've taught all kinds of things over the past few years. But this is the first time I feel like I've watched someone learn something that really matters. Something that will continue to matter for a long time after I say goodbye to him. And something, of course, that I could never really teach him. Something that he learned for himself. So I don't really have any reason for feeling as proud as I do, but I do!