Contextualized curriculum and assessment at the service of advancing learning
A dogmatic schooling that rests on taboos such as assessment, subject matter, hours of attendance, textbooks, and on knowledge being transmitted (Paraskeva, 2016) is also problematized by the teachers. The narrative of equal learning for all based on meritocracy is problematized (cf. Darder, 2015; Young, 1961), especially in classes with special needs students and in vocational training courses that have students from working classes that are workers themselves.
We used to talk about citizen rights and duties, in an environment and with people with very few rights, with a history of exclusion, heavy-duty workers who had their hands deformed by years of hardship with the hoe that prevented them from using the pencil properly. (...) What was the most important for them was to learn how to read and write their name and surname. As each student would make their badge with their name on, it was of utmost importance to know the letters in their names - it was gratifying watching them learn how to learn.
(Brazilian teacher Claudia, narrative 2017)
Today, as a teacher, I try to avoid the irrational and harmful assessment errors that victimised me, even though the schools keep implementing oppressive and punitive assessment models and practices that aim at classifying with the purpose of selecting students. Standards are just accepted and legitimised by society. (...) I force myself never to forget that students need systematic guidance and assessment of their work that will stimulate and motivate them to improve their learning, going as far as they can, either by recognising their progress and success, or by helping them to overcome their failures.
(Portuguese teacher Emilia, narrative 2013)
Continuous personal and professional investment
While unveiling their representations of successful teaching, teacher narratives also disclose the contextual requirements. In order to do a democratic and transformative work, teachers confront themselves with a wide diversity of student needs and the need to compensate for the imbalance created by huge social and economic inequalities that requires personal commitments that go beyond professional responsibilities.
The school did not have a photocopying machine, and so we designed all activities in stencil and we would use a mimeograph for producing materials for 3 classes (...) All these difficulties we have been through, with the lack of material and the lack of leadership, only strengthened the teachers’ group.
(Brazilian teacher Gabriela, narrative 2016)