We believe that we provide a fresh perspective because we are not only social work educators but also students. The previous section is our shared perspective as we perform our roles as social work students. Speaking from the role of the emerging social work educator, we heretofore are not yet tenure process haunted, de-ideated, and de-politicized by the neoliberal operation and ideation of our university. Our pedagogue selves are in full agreement with our student selves.
We believe that these “nots” allow us to speak our minds freely, critically, and reflectively.
We believe that we also bring in a blend of social work training and work experience from India, Latvia, and the United States in rather contrasting welfare, academic, and political systems. My (Juliana Svistova) educational and professional experiences in Latvia can be described as going through the motions surrounded by the remnants of the Soviet machine. Educationally, I went through a typical Soviet pedagogical approach of content memorizing and regurgitation with all-knowing teachers in a position of authority. Professionally, I worked as a social worker in a social service agency. I was essentially a bureaucrat with some power who abided by the prescribed laws and disciplined the poor and fragile segment of society. A fairly new profession (approximately 15 years old) at a time, social work was borrowing from the US, UK, and Scandinavian schools of social work and social welfare thought. The profession was rapidly developing as it was attempting to break through the profoundly imprinted practices of the Soviet (welfare) system. The word “empowerment” was unheard of because the Latvian or Russian equivalent of this word had not been created (I am not sure it exists today either).
In contrast, my (Meera Bhat) social work educational experience in India is from a feminist, hands-on program in which one-third of the undergraduate program constituted intensive fieldwork, sometimes in an agency or sometimes one- on-one with a supervisor in a community. Classes were very often held under trees, on rooftops, in community settings, or on hikes depending on both the students' and teacher's comfort and needs. There was an assertive focus, particularly in the early semesters, on observation, journaling, and group reflection. Grading was mostly through assignments that compelled students to question themselves, their values, and the systems around them, including their teachers and theories. This could result in new definitions or the development of manuals on specific topics.