Adapted from an activity by Eleanora and Joao Paulo Castano Ferreira
Is problem-posing good for educators? Our working conditions as educators are a crucial part of the context in which we are trying to do popular education, influencing everything from the materials we use today to our long term goals. This activity, which I learned while teaching at the ILGWU Worker-Family Education Program, helps educators look at our own work as work, using our own experiences and issues as material for problem-posing.
Educators create a mural or large drawing that shows the problems they have as worker educators (as workers) in a particular context or program, then use the murals to get to know each other better and begin to identify common issues and goals.
Big paper and markers, can also do this as a collage, in which case you need lots of magazines and enough scissors and rubber cement. You also need enough table, wall or floor space for people the mural.
Number of people:
At least six or so -- enough to generate some complexity in the mural.
One hour, depending on where the discussion goes.
- Explain and motivate
- Note: some people are anxious about having to draw, so stress that the bar is low -- anyone can draw, model how to do this, using stick figures or other very simple images.
- Make sure people have the space, markers and a clear idea of the task and the time available
- Draw, facilitator circulates, observing both the drawings and how the mural emerges -- what is the process? Is there a point where the mural comes together? Or does it remain a collection of individual drawings?
- When the time is up, ask people to study the mural, looking at each part, then debrief:
- What do you see? What stands out? What questions do you have about drawings you see? What would you like to have explained? When a particular person's drawing becomes the subject of discussion, take the time to have that person explain their whole drawing.
- When the conversation is done, ask the participants to think of a title and caption for the mural -- how can we summarize the contents?
- Save or record the mural for future use.
Because this activity may raise sensitive issues -- you are asking workers about their working conditions and the problems they face -- be aware of the surroundings and how the documents produced may be used. Is there a manager in the room? Are participants secure that what they say will remain confidential? Is there agreement about what to do with the mural and any notes that are produced?
You can cut up the paper into shapes that can be assembled like a big puzzle. Give each participant a piece on which to draw, then ask them to put their pieces together.
This is a practice what you preach activity and for me and my fellow employees of the Consortium for Worker Education (CWE) it was very fruitful. It turned out to be one of the first steps towards our ultimately successful union organizing drive for CWE teachers and paraprofessionals, and the beginning of an interesting and difficult struggle over the terms of popular education which pitted us against our managers, even those who embraced popular education. (But that's another story.) It is also very helpful to experience techniques as a participant, not just a facilitator.