The profession of teacher, inseparably linked to the notion of pedagogy, has been going through a crisis of trust recently. How can this branch of knowledge be defended?
Pedagogy can defend itself, although it’s constantly being criticised. It defends itself, amongst other things, in that it’s important for all of us, since it’s on everyone’s lips. On the one hand, there is no one free from the role of education. We go through life in relationships which are educational in character, we learn, we teach and we bring each other up and spend a lot of time thinking about these processes. On the other hand, pedagogy appears to be a condition of the reality in which we live. You could say that, from the social point of view, we are living in structures which recall the pedagogical relations, themselves based on educational interventions, in which people construct their worlds, for example, as consumers, workers in specific fields, or the unemployed, or as inhabitants of towns or the countryside and so on. Education has become a tool which operates in every sphere of social life and because of this, of course, it doesn’t only serve pedagogues. It should even be stressed that they are, in fact, a minority. Take a look at the various training sessions for employees in various companies. It would be difficult to find a pedagogue amongst the people who conduct such sessions. They are mostly specialists in various forms of management, psychologists specialising in some specific area or the mentors and tutors who have been so in fashion recently, and many, many others, often completely ignorant of pedagogy.
What was the impulse that took you towards studying pedagogy?
I graduated from a secondary art school and ‘followed the line” by applying for studies in my artistic interest. I tried for History of Art in Poznań, but, unfortunately, it was a very popular course of study at the time and, despite passing the exam, I wasn’t accepted on the course due to lack of places. It’s pure coincidence that I ended up in pedagogy … After the failed attempt to study, I got a job in a school, just to wait out the year, and … I stayed … Without any teaching qualifications whatsoever, I became a teacher in a primary school. I taught the children art, all of the trivial stuff. After art school I simply ‘fitted’ this field, but at the same time I felt that I’d found an area that had undoubtedly become a challenge for me. That’s perhaps only natural when you’re doing something where you know you lack suitable qualifications, but I really felt at the time that the job was drawing me in and taking up a lot of time that I didn’t regret losing. From the perspective of 35 years, I can judge really positively everything that happened later, and at the time was all in my professional and academic future as a pedagogue. I don’t feel that I have put this socio-educational work behind me but am still very much experiencing it as an intellectual adventure and at the same time the unceasing discovery of new worlds. It is a characteristic of pedagogy, which is, and this never fails to fascinate me, a reflection on action and interaction, which changes people and is an expression of their subjective identity.
So a pedagogue works 24 hours a day?
From this perspective, yes. There’s no way not to escape the issues that are at the centre of my interest and which fascinate me, but, obviously, it would be an exaggeration if it really took up the 24 hours in a day. The back-breaking work would be pointless and there’s no justification for it. It a question of give and take. The best option, probably, is work done with a sense of purpose and treated as a value (it’s good to do what’s worth doing). It should also be a source of joy. I really like Johannes Hevelius, who had many professions and roles in a colourful life and who lived by the motto utilitas et delectatio, usefulness and pleasure, for benefit and for joy, one’s own as well as others’.
As a pedagogue, you have gone through every level of the educational structure in the country and now, amongst other things, you’re engaged in introducing the idea of lifelong learning. What made you choose your current specialisation?
From everything I’ve said so far, it might seem that it is a result of my own path and … studying all my life. It is certainly not without significance that I started my professional career with no qualifications and that to a great extent I got them through extramural studies, and also outside formal education. It may also lie somewhere at the heart of my conviction that it’s worth opening the doors of an academic institution to people who want to study, to experience the joy of being part of the universitas , the academic community, regardless of the fact that their lives do not conform to the traditional model or the standard requirements for enrolment. Nowadays, universities don’t only have the chance to recognise qualifications, but also to offer a special form of studies to people who have acquired their skills and knowledge by learning at different ages, in different locations and roles, including those far removed from schools and universities. EU universities are currently creating conditions, whereby the requirements they set can still be met by candidates, but in such a way as to take account of their specific learning paths before being accepted for studies. This is the purpose of the system for recognising the effects of learning which is being currently being implemented at our university under the Pro-Dean for Educational Matters, Professor Anna Machnikowska. From 1st October 2015 the University of Gdańsk, like every university in Poland, has been open to candidates who above all want to study and who, as people with experience of work and many years of learning, can use their unconventional entry into studies, organised in a special procedure which guarantees the quality of education and also the good name of the University of Gdańsk. Our institution wants to, and can, take account of their experience to create the opportunity for them to study.
Is there anything, whether in primary school or at a higher level, that you’ll never forget for the rest of your life?
On many occasions I have felt the joy of learning from others – others, whether my co-workers, for example colleagues I work with from the Department of Social Pedagogy, from the Institute of Pedagogy at the Faculty of Social Sciences, or, in a broader sense, from the research networks and various academic and social spheres in which I am active. In amongst them doctoral students and students occupy a special place, as do individuals I personally will never forget who help create the local communities of Gdańsk in which I was born, live and work, but also the Kashubian village to which I moved several years ago and where I felt the joy of belonging to a village community. Learning from others, learning from people, with people or through people is an experience which brings a wonderful feeling of enrichment, immeasurable joy, always the same in its freshness, in that because of these relationships, into which I have entered more or less spontaneously, I have gained so much! You could call it socially sensitive existence in the world or, on an entirely different note, living life to the full.
Do you have any hobby that you devote yourself to after work?
I don’t know if you could call it a hobby … I mentioned that I graduated from a secondary art school, so I am, by training, an artist, a specialist in applied arts. Certainly because of that I really like gluing things, drawing things, or having fun with some sort of composition. But I’m no artist! I just love the visual arts and I get great joy from them, that’s all. What else? I’ve always liked active forms of relaxation and I love walking in the mountains with my husband, swimming, benefiting from our beautiful world here, in Gdańsk, in Kashubia, wherever and whenever, everywhere and at any time of the year.
Interview: Krzysztof Klinkosz
Photography: Piotr Pędziszewski