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Educação & Realidade

versão impressa ISSN 0100-3143versão On-line ISSN 2175-6236

Educ. Real. vol.43 no.3 Porto Alegre jul./set. 2018 


The Objectification of the Pedagogical Relationship in Everyday School Life

Nilda StecanelaI 

IUniversidade de Caxias do Sul (UCS), Caxias do Sul/RS - Brazil


The text aims at reflecting on something recurrent in teachers’ and students’ narratives on their teacher and school experiences: the cultures of complaint. The observation of everyday life in schools shows that a feeling of discomfort accompanies teachers and students in the relation they establish. Although it is not named, what is at issue is the pedagogical relationship. The complaint acts as a mediator that brings to the field of reflection a pedagogical relationship that no longer sustains itself. Evidence of a relationship that occurs in parallel routes, with almost no connections, strengthens the argument for the existence of an objectified pedagogical relationship, far apart from a truly dialogical relationship.

Keywords: Pedagogical Relationship; Basic Education; School Everyday Life; Dialogue at School; Objectification

Research on Everyday School Life

The observation of the school and its margins permits an affirmation that everyday school life is accompanied/traversed by a set of events constituted by routines, practices or cultures that are underlined by moments of more or less intensity. Those moments are guided by official, legal and pedagogical factors, but also by those that come from everyday practices and relationships that the school and its actors establish in, with and between the interior and the exterior of its range boundaries.

Some of those events occur more frequently, others happen more sporadically. The school calendar, for instance, considered one of the elements of the school curricular organization, guides the distribution of pedagogical time and space, related to the different levels and modalities of teaching, and groups a set of events which organizes school life and intermediates the pedagogical relationship.

Despite the fact that school is marked by a rigid structure more broadly grounded, in the case of Brazilian Basic Education, on a curricular basis common to the whole national territory, and more specifically on Municipal Education Plans, Pedagogical Projects, Study Plans and the annual calendar of each school, it is possible to affirm that one day at school will never be the same as the other, and the next school year will never be reproduced identically to the previous one. This may be attributed to the dynamicity of the relationships that occur within each classroom or at the spaces of management, recreation and circulation, as well as in the membranes that limit the relationships established at school.

Although conservation of conceptions or practices of impermeability is observed, there is understanding of the non-hermetic characteristics of the school as well as of the porosity that compounds its frontiers with the interior and the exterior. These aspects are challenges to perceiving what occurs in the interstices of the educative phenomenon, especially inside the pedagogical relationship.

In the apparent repetition dictated by the rigid school structure, the inspiration derived from the principles of research on everyday life emphasizes there is always something to surprise, call attention and mobilize the search for understanding the complexities that surround and penetrate the relationships experienced. Such a position is based on Lefebvre’s words, when he considers everyday life may be understood as that which is apparently insignificant, “[...] is the humble and solid, what is taken for granted and that of which all the parts follow each other in such a regular, unvarying succession that those concerned have no call to question their sequence; [...]” (Lefebvre, 1991, p. 31).

The everyday school life observed by means of ethnographic registers and narrative produced by teachers and students indicate fluctuations, recurrences, latencies, ruptures, displacements and inventions in the practices and cultures which traverse the ways of conceiving, living and perceiving the school.

In the contents of observation, an aspect has been recurrent in the narratives on teaching and school experience: the cultures of complaint. The analytical effort intended in the text displaces the focus of the phenomenon from itself - the repetition of the complaint - to the encounter with the surprise and the perception of the echoes coming from the noises identified in the pedagogical relationship. Besides, it searches for floating elements that undulate on teachers’ and students’ words, according to the example given by the different dimensions of dialogue, present and/or required in the pedagogical relationship, to which this paper gives special attention.

Cultures of Complaint in the Contemporary School

Cultures of complaint is an analytical category that arises from my experience of more than three decades, and studies that bring the school and its margins as an object of observation14, as well as from the analyses of interfaces and unfoldments that the principles of the right to education, present in Brazilian education legislation, assume in school everyday life.

The empirical data that more directly echo in this text are originated from ethnographic registers, structured questionnaires, narrative interviews and focus groups, involving some 200 teachers and 200 students, from the final years of primary and from secondary school, belonging to public schools located in municipalities of the mountain region of Rio Grande do Sul - Brazil.

The appreciations here presented consider two levels of analyses for observation of everyday school life relationships, referred to by Lefebvre (2002) as being the micro and macro levels. At the micro level, the relationships are established between a person and another person or in a group of people. These relationships, considered by the author as non-mediated, involve bonds of dependence and opposition, as in the examples of husband-and-wife, parents-children, employers-employees relationships. Lefebvre adds that at the macro level, such relations are mediated and materialized by things - commodities, money, language -, also configuring relationships of direct dependence and opposition, established by survival ties that extend archaic relationships similar to consanguinity and territoriality relationships, or subordination and vassalage relationships. “On this ‘macro level’, such relations are mediated; they pass via the thing - reified and reifying, alienating and alienated: commodities, money, language” (Lefebvre, 2002, p. 139).

Chart 1 brings the categorization of some of the most common complaints that come from teachers’ narratives15:

Chart 1 Teachers’ Complaints 

“Students’ disinterest and demotivation regarding school” “Family absence” “Embarrassment and loss of authority”
- “The students do not care about anything”. - “The students come to school only because are obliged by their parents (and law)”. - “Outside the school the world is more attractive”. - “Teaching is a problem when the families assign to the school also the task of educating their children”. - “It is difficult for the parents to leave their children with the teachers”. - “A lot of content (information) is not transmitted because the students do not behave themselves”. - “It is necessary to be careful with what is said because everything favours the student”. - “Students have more rights than duties [...]; they know their rights and use them to intimidate teachers”.

Source: Elaborated by the author.

Teachers’ complaints expressed in Chart 1 start from the representations they have on what is considered as students’ disinterest and demotivation regarding school (micro level), added by the difficulties they have regarding preparation of lessons, once in their understanding these factors produce apathy and/or rebelliousness in students’ attitudes. Besides, the school is obliged to receive all students, according to the research interlocutors, even the ones that do not want to study.

The paradox evidenced by the right and obligation to attend school is referred to indirectly and associated with the difficulties to work with the sociocultural diversity that starts composing the classroom from the right to education assured through the 1988 Brazilian Constitution. They are students coming from several social and cultural contexts, requiring a planning turned to receiving diversity in a school based on a model of integration, homogenization and disregard for difference.

In their turn, students’ bad attitudes at school are attributed to family neglect of their children’s education, reinforcing the representation that the family educates, and the school teaches. The first - the family educates - is understood as the politeness and respect to social conducts, and the second - the school teaches - is related to the strict role of the school in the transmission of the cultural legacy of humanity. As a consequence, the verbalization of what is perceived, indicating the students arrive at school without the values and habits necessary for social coexistence, justifies practices that divert the investment in teaching conceptual, sometimes procedural, contents in order to keep order in the classroom, requiring greater investment in attitudinal contents.

The system of rights that surrounds the trajectories of Brazilian children and youths (macro level) safeguards them from child labour through the mandatory attendance at school from four to 17 years old, including part of primary and secondary school, totalling 14 years of compulsory schooling. Moreover, it assures protection against undue ways of exposition and embarrassment, besides orientating for the practice of citizenship in the acknowledgment of rights and assumption of duties. This system works as a regulatory element of adults’ extreme actions in relation to the child and the youth, besides including the regulation of the teachers’ attitudes in the pedagogical relationship.

Teachers consider there is unbalance between students’ rights and duties, and attribute the embarrassment that they feel in the teaching action regarding the dimensions of attitude of the school experience to this fact, limiting the scope of pedagogical intervention in the processes of socialization experimented in the school space. The interlacement between the macro level, conceived in educational policies, and the micro level, lived and perceived in teachers’ and students’ experience, interferes with the relationships established within the school16. Consequently, under teachers’ vision, the conflicts emerging from the classroom are hardly neutralized or managed, give power to the students and affect the development of conceptual, attitudinal and procedural competences, that is, disturb the whole pedagogical relationship.

In summary, teachers complain they are not duly listened to, respected and followed by the students. They consider that for being uninterested and unmotivated regarding school, and for not having limits and values developed in the primary socialization, the students do not practice their duties properly, and do not invest what they should in their own learning, disregard teachers’ recommendations, disrespect their authority, and have difficulty to control their impulses. As a result, teachers’ frustrations regarding the profession, connected with the feeling of impotence in performing what they believe to be their role within the pedagogical relationship - to teach school contents to the students - potentize the recurrence of the cultures of complaint.

On the other hand, different from what teachers think, the students’ complaints narrate that, although they like going to school, they think the classes are boring. They mention the passive teaching methodologies, considering them as outdated, such as the copy-answer method. The students’ complaints inform the desire for attention to their specific needs and not only regarding the whole group. They complain about spaces of participation and expression of their opinions. They require the configuration of the school as a place where no one is too lazy to go, therefore attractive to its attendees, including teachers, because they realize that some of them are not afraid to show they do not like what they do. They want to be heard regarding their individual and collective demands, and manifest the desire for a school that challenges the connections between theory and practice, that is, between school knowledge, everyday life knowledge and the cultures that accompany the generations that transit within the school. The students’ macro is the teacher’s teaching, and the micro is the relationship with their generation and their socialization needs.

Chart 2 expresses part of the complaints coming from the students’ narratives:

Chart 2 Students’ Complaints 

Going to school is good, but the classes are boring Teaching needs to be renewed The school should be friendlier
- “Sitting for several hours doing the same thing is bad”. - “I like learning and studying, but this teaching has not lived up to expectations”. - “This is not what I expect (from the school) and not even what I need”. - “We still do things which were done 200 years ago”. - “The teachers and the management should listen more to the students”. - “The school should adapt itself over the years, modernizing the teaching”. - “There is lack of communication; also, the students have opinions on the school”. - “Nowadays there is lack of respect from both sides (teachers and students)”. - “The school should be less rude and get closer to the students”.

Source: Elaborated by the author.

Some students still express that are tired of the school, indicating frustration in their expectations due to the perception of the egap evident between the school desired and that practiced. At the same time, they emphasize the communicative gap between the interests and practices of the generations that share the school space, especially between the adult world and the youth world, between teachers and students.

A distancing of what is perceived narrated through teachers’ and students’ words corroborates Lefebvre’s affirmatives on the everyday life, because, according to the author, “What we live are rhythms - rhythms experienced subjectively” (Lefebvre, 1991a, p. 206). School life and pedagogical relationship are cadenced by different ties and events occurring in school space, which affect and are affected by external cultures. In this process, a fact that cannot be disregarded is that the students’ trajectories do not vibrate on the same tune as the imperatives of what is conceived in education institutions, such as terms, assessment, local and national rules, elements that establish the cycles of what is lived. Differently, it is necessary to consider that teachers’ expectations, mostly based on the linearity of what is conceived in education policies, collide with the dynamicity of the life perceived within the pedagogical relationship, affecting the meanings attributed to the teachers’ experience. The subjectivities in the rhythms of everyday life referred to by Lefebvre affect what is perceived by teachers and students due to the multisensory character of social relationships, influenced by gestures, movements, scents, tastes and sounds that accompany the pedagogical relationship.

The empirical extracts previously outlined are brought to the text to emphasize the importance of attention to the echoes from the cultures of complaint evidenced in teachers’ and students’ narratives on teaching and school experience in the Brazilian contemporary school, especially the school that exists from the 1988 Constitution, therefore in a very recent period if the project of school of modernity is considered.

Teaching and school experience reflects the existence of interdependence networks, whose connections produce what the studies of Elias (2011) on the civilization process call configuration. The several actors of the school - especially teachers and students, but also families and managers - compound a structure of people mutually oriented and dependent that ends up in a school configuration. The families assign to the school and teachers the task of educating their children; the teachers fell under pressure to follow legal and pedagogical guidelines, at the same time as they are requested to invest in an education oriented towards citizenship, with which they resist to comply; the students, in their turn, request a school that meets their expectations, in the development of both cognitive and social competences, and in a pleasant way, since the school is the institution where they have the right and the obligation to be for at least 14 years of their lifetime.

A certain level of frustration, whose causes are attributed to one other, is corroborated in teachers’ and students’ complaints, communicating a conflictive pedagogical relationship. At the same time, the expectations of both seem to indicate the same direction, showing the desire for making their words and aspirations to echo within the pedagogical relationship.

The listening and the nomination of the word can be associated with the request for the right to say the word, and also with its listening. This aspect refers to the principles of Paulo Freire’s legacy (1987, p. 78) when considering dialogue as a human right, since “It is not in the silence that men are made, but in the word, work, and self-reflection.”

If the cultures of complaint, among so many aspects, can relate to a claim for dialogue in the pedagogical relationship, then it would be necessary to understand how the pedagogical relationship is configured in the Brazilian contemporary school, as well as the possible dimensions of dialogue that exist.

Displacements in the Pedagogical Relationship of the Contemporary School

It is at school and in the classroom that a specific type of social relationship occurs: the pedagogical relationship, characterized in the conception of the school of modernity by the triad consisting of teacher, student and knowledge. It is a human relationship established by ties of both direct dependence and opposition, mostly mediated by elements that unfold from the triad that characterizes it.

In everyday school life, the pedagogical relationship can be observed: (a) at the macro level, when mediated by more objective and concrete aspects, such as knowledge, its ways of transmission and/or construction, as well as the control mechanisms on what is developed at school, associated with what is conceived in education policies; and (b) at the micro level, in the consideration of the subjectivities of human relationships, in what is lived and perceived by teachers and students, in the meaning attributed to the teaching and school experience.

Although displacements from the master-disciple relationship (turned to the internal knowledge of each individual and centred on the master’s authority and testimony) to the teacher-student relationship (oriented to an external and objective knowledge, exterior to the actor of the relation) have occurred, there is still the conception of an asymmetric relationship between the actors of the pedagogical relationship.

This asymmetry occurs because of the roles conceived for teachers’ duties and for students’ duties. The teacher is assigned to establish the ends and means to implement the student’s learning, according to the education system rules to which the school belongs, in a permanent practice of pedagogical authority, considering his/her greater proximity to the teaching competences and the scientific knowledge in order to transform it into school knowledge. The student is supposed to trust the project established by the teachers for his/her learning, respect rules and take on with discipline the process of appropriation of knowledge that the school transmits and helps constructing, so that to constitute his/her autonomy, considering the transitory character of the pedagogical relationship.

However, when considering what is lived and perceived in the pedagogical relationship at the contemporary school, a certain destabilization is observed in the aforementioned conceptions of teachers’ and students’ roles in the relation they establish at school. Among several factors, this destabilization may be attributed to: (a) loss of school hegemony regarding access to information; (b) more horizontal relations experienced in contemporary education institutions, such as the relation between school and family; (c) representations of the regulatory process of teachers’ authority existent in legal references of the system of right to education in Brazil and its unfolding in the legislation that regulates it.

What is perceived about what is lived indicates that teachers and students have close ends, but the means seems to transit on parallel routes that do not meet an intersection point. Teachers’ and students’ narratives communicate that a negotiation process in the pedagogical relationship is in progress, appearing as tense and conflictive.

The echoes from teachers’ and students’ narratives on what is lived at school claim deeper dimensions of dialogue, whose potentialities may allow new ways of interaction, in order to make the teaching and school experience more pleasant for both the actors who participate in it. This suggests that what is lived at the contemporary school pressures the ways of experiencing the pedagogical relationship forcing displacements towards the reconfiguration also of its conception, until then based on the triad composed of teacher, student and knowledge, according to Figure 1:

Source: Elaborated by the author

Figure 1 Pedagogical Relationship in the School of Modernity 

It is possible to deduce that, in a contemporary perspective of pedagogical relationship, dialogue is requested in the articulation of the triad of elements that interact between each other in the pedagogical relationship conceived by the project of the school of modernity. In other words, the displacements previously referred to, from the pedagogical relationship in the school of modernity to the contemporary school, should receive dialogue as principle and element of mediation, in counterpoint to the cultures of complaint that emerge from what is perceived about what is lived, in the teaching and school experience, as shown in Figure 2:

Source: Elaborated by the author

Figure 2 Dialogue in the Pedagogical Relationship Triad 

In synthesis, the roles are distinct regarding teachers’ and students’ duties. The ends connected with the role of the school in the transmission and/or construction of knowledge are on the horizon of the expectations of both actors. The desire for dialogue in the pedagogical relationship appears as principle and method through which the contemporary school should come closer not only to the effectiveness of its purpose in the access to knowledge considered socially relevant, but also to the socializing dimension that follows it, in individual and collective relationships that permeate its everyday life.

Also teaching and learning are implicated in the scope of knowledge, and spacial, temporal, communicative, personal and cognitive dimensions can be added to them. Not even the historic, social and cultural contexts in which the pedagogical relationship develops can be excluded.

According to Shim (2008, p. 516), “Teaching cannot be separated from the act of learning: the former cannot exist without the later.” For this author, the teacher’s action of teaching affects the learning of someone else, but also his/her own learning. Thus, it is necessary to consider that teaching cannot be only a means for learning because also involves learning.

The relationships of interdependence alluded in the text are in line with Freire’s affirmations by mentioning that there is no teaching without learning, therefore teachers and students perform roles in the pedagogical relationship (Freire, 1997, p. 23-51).

Based on Freire (1997, p. 26), it can be said that the validity of teaching and learning resulting from a conflictive pedagogical relationship, such as that which was narrated in the cultures of complaint, questions the validity of teaching itself. For Freire, “[...] there is no validity in the teaching whose result is learning where the learner has not become able to recreate or redo what was taught, where what was taught and not learned cannot be truly learned by the learner.” Attitude and procedural aspects should be considered in the dimensions of the knowledge taught and of the knowledge learned. One of the causes that motivate the cultures of complaint might have been placed here, because it does not make any sense anymore to separate the knowledge and the relation with the excessive emphasis on the conceptual contents in detriment of relational aspects.

If we consider the gnoseological cycle developed by Freire (1997, p. 31), a new configuration could represent the pedagogical relationship - composed of teaching, learning and research -, with the maintenance of dialogue as principle and means in its effectiveness.

It is through an investigative posture, based on questioning, curiosity, listening, on the search for the existent knowledge and on openness to discovery of the new knowledge that dialogue can be configured as an important principle and mediator element in the pedagogical relationship (Figure 3). Here, the affirmations of Shim (2008, p. 516) can be added, because: “Teaching should involve learning at the same time, or acquiring essential knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Learning does not happen alone as a result of a totally independent act of teaching”.

Source: Elaborated by the author

Figure 3 Dialogue as Principle and Means in the Pedagogical Relationship 

Teachers’ and students’ nonconformism to the ways of living the pedagogical relationship, evidenced through the data analysed and systematized in Stecanela (2016), suggests a process situated in the boundaries of a depleted model which no longer meets expectations, at the same time it claims a different way of the contemporary school, not yet consolidated.

If teaching cannot occur separated from learning, it is necessary to problematize the conceptions that surround the elements compounding the pedagogical relationship and the guiding mediator role of dialogue as an element required in its interior, an aspect to be developed in the next point.

A Dialogical Pedagogical Relationship (?)

After considering the asymmetries conceived in the pedagogical relationship of the modernity school, it is necessary to problematize the viability of a pedagogical relationship in the scope of the contemporary school. To what extent do the displacements requested in the pedagogical relationship of the contemporary school find support to develop in everyday school life? Is dialogue in the pedagogical relationship, as principle and means, able to produce a dialogical pedagogical relationship where this relation is not confused with friendship?

Searching for answers to such questions requires us to evoke of the ideas of two important 20th Century thinkers, Martin Buber and Paulo Freire, who broach dialogue and provide significant contributions for the field of education. Although they have lived in different space-time and political contexts and developed their reflections from distinct interests, both authors bring convergences that enhance what is intended in this text. Besides Buber and Freire, some commentators that engage with dialogical education in their work are brought to the reflection, such as Morgan and Guilherme (2014); Shim (2008); and Hilliard (1973).

The potentialities of dialogue in the scope of human relationships and relations that occur in everyday school life are recognized simultaneously as a way of communication and a pedagogical manner to know and relate to the world. Morgan and Guilherme (2014, p. 21) mention that “A key factor in the creation of dialogical communities is education and Buber argues that dialogue should be the core of education.” They add that “For Buber, an educational approach based on dialogue is one that places appropriate weight on the roles of both teacher and student.” and clarify Buber’s position in the criticism he made about the education practiced in Germany between the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, which moved from a teacher-centred approach to a student-centred approach. This position of Buber’s, contrary to both approaches, is explained by Hilliard (1973, p. 46) when defending that the teacher’s role is not only to help the student’s development:

Education was essentially a process wich required the educator not merely to assist but also to positively to influence growth an development . [...] In Buber’s view of education then, neither the teacher alone, nor the child alone but the teacher ande the child together are the centre of the educational process.

According to Hilliard, although Buber condemned the ‘interference’ or the ‘arbitrariness’ of the teacher with the students, he accepted that, in the scope of the responsibilities assigned to the teacher, instead of ‘interference’, the teacher should exercise ‘influence’ on the students (Hilliard, 1973, p. 40-49).

Besides, Hilliard relates Buber’s defence regarding the need for a balance between teacher-centred and student-centred models in order to consider teachers’ influence and students’ capacity, interests and needs in the relation. At this point, the cultures of complaint evidenced in the beginning of the text can be connected, because this study’s participants indicate expectations and protagonism in a relationship that occurs in parallel routes, whose nomination, by inspiration derived from Morgan and Guilherme (2014, p.24), could be Us and Them. In this type of relation, the mismatch is evidenced, and the other’s needs are little considered and/or perceived and, according to Morgan and Guilherme, potentiate the conflicts and mismatches.

In the other direction, Buber (2001) defends that, in order to be authentic, the human existence becomes real in the relationship, which is explained in two principles: I-Thou and I-It, the first being a genuinely human relationship, and the second, a relationship in which the other is considered a mere object. In Buber’s arguments, the concept of dialogue comes closer to the concept of encounter. For Buber, the direct encounter between two human beings, embued with trust and free of interests, characterize the I-Thou relationship. In its turn, the indirect encounter, wrapped in the determinants that lead to the obtainment of advantage upon the other, signals an I-It relationship (Buber, 2014).

Freire absorbs influences from the philosophy of Buber’s dialogue, understanding dialogue as a human phenomenon and as an “encounter of men, mediated by the world” (Freire, 1987, p. 78). The pronunciation of the word is a pre-requisite for dialogue to happen and to promote the process of consciousness and freedom. Therefore, dialogue is a necessary condition for overcoming banking education, which only transmits, and move toward a dialogical, problematizing and liberating education. For both authors, the very dialogue demands opening to the other. In Freire, the viability of dialogue also demands consciousness of the unfinished, the incompleteness, because, in his words, “My security [...] rests on the conviction that there are some things I know and some things I do not know. With this conviction it is more likely that I may come to know better what I already know and better know what I do not yet know” (Freire, 1997, p. 153).

Retaking the cultures of complaint, we hear that teachers want silence to transmit the knowledge designated for each school curricular organization year and, for this purpose, demand that the family fulfil its socializing role in relation to teaching good manners to their children, to respect for authority and to social behaviours in other institutions outside the family, such as the school. At the same time, they aim at respect and trust from the students to teach the specific contents of their disciplines, showing themselves little prepared for working with the sociocultural diversity and for incorporating the cultural aspects that accompany the students’ contexts of life to the school curriculum.

In their turn, the students complain about the right to talk and express what they think and feel. Their narratives indicate the desire for getting out of a passive condition, desired by the adult world, to an assumption of active attitudes in the learning process itself and in the construction of a school that fulfils their expectations, an institution that they consider important in their life trajectories.

To what extent can what happens between teacher and student in the pedagogical relationship narrated by the study’s participants can be considered a relationship? The cultures of complaint evidenced in the research show that there is no alignment between teachers’ and students’ expectations, but teachers’ and students’ narratives present that there is desire for construction/establishment of a more significant pedagogical relationship. The manifested mismatch may indicate an anti-dialogical relationship, suspicious about the real roles that each actor and constituent elements assume in the pedagogical relationship. These aspects transit opposite to what Buber postulates on dialogue, because they consider that trust is the key for the establishment of the encounter. In the same direction, according to Freire (1987, p. 78), if considered an encounter or “[...] as act of creation”, dialogue cannot be reduced “[...] to the act of one person’s “depositing” ideas in another, nor can it become a simple exchange of ideas to be “consumed” by the discussants.”

In the scope of this discussion, the school curriculum, as a constituent element of the pedagogical relationship, cannot be neglected. Due to the character of centrality assumed in everyday school life, the curriculum is a regulator regarding the relationships established at school, guides the meanings attributed to the teaching and school experience and moves the school actors apart from the direct encounter mentioned by Buber, that is, from the true I-Thou relation, in which the subjects implicated establish a relationship of mutuality between each other.

The reification of school curriculum may characterize the indirect encounter referred to by Buber, potentiating the I-It relationship. Shim (2008, p. 525) comments that the elements involved in school curriculum, such as the transmission of information and examinations to verify the learning level, precede the encounter and condition the postures both of teachers and of students that, in our understanding, come closer to an objectified relation or, according to categorization used by Freire (1987), an objectifying relationship. In Shim’s words:

Learners in this situation will regard their teachers as mere professional instructors; learners try to appropriate useful information from their teachers while teachers try to get rewards by transmitting academic information and satisfying the set standards (Shim, 2008, p. 525) .

The school curriculum could be associated with the It, characterizing an objectifying relationship, because it leads the teacher to divert the focus to mere transmission, disregarding the students’ expectations. In the same way, the students, when coming into line with the demands from the school curriculum, do not realize the value of teaching either. As a result, both teachers and students create their own compensation mechanisms.

Mentioning the title of this article, The Objectification of the Pedagogical Relationship in Everyday School Life, it is necessary to situate the concept of objectification and synthesize the arguments that allow concluding the pedagogical relationship described by the research subjects that originates this text is an objectifying pedagogical relationship.

The concept of objectification employed by Freire and adapted in this text to analyze the pedagogical relation in contemporary school derives from his reflections on the processes of domination and alienation, responsible for producing the society-object and the man-object. The latter, according to Freire (1967), when surrendering to the anonymity of the levelling process of massification, strengthens the process of domestication and becomes a mere object, that is, it becomes a thing, it is ‘thingified’. The confrontation of the process of domination would be possible through dialogue. In saying and listening to the word, the dialogical I receives the Thou that constitutes it. In turn, the anti-dialogical I considers the Thou of the relationship as an It, as a thing, perverting the dialogue, objectifying or reificating the other and the relationship.

The claims of the research participants, although appearing to be in objectified relationships, allude to a process of transition from a naive consciousness to a critical consciousness not yet characterized as an epistemological consciousness. The echoes of the cultures of complaint communicate that the actors of the school do not conform to being only objects of the relation, but require being active and critical subjects in the teaching and school experience.

Perhaps, the diffusion of a democratic school within the scope of educational legislation texts and progressive pedagogies has propagated a reciprocal relationship between teachers and students which is not effective in the school everyday life, producing a feeling of lack, besides not meeting projected expectations. It is the threshold of an educational process in which one no longer wants a merely transmissive school without having the development of teaching and school skills necessary to carry out the new configurations.

The dissemination of the existence of reciprocity in the pedagogical relationship may have guided an image of symmetry between the roles of teachers and students and part of the students’ sense of frustration about school can be added to this conception. Considered by Nohl (1957 apud Shim, 2008) as a kind of unique relationship, described as a relationship of love between a mature person and a developing person, it is not possible to forget the transitory nature of the pedagogical relationship, since the processes of student empowerment as a learner are on the horizon. In Shim’s understanding, the pedagogical relationship has the character of mutuality and cannot be confused with reciprocity. In this understanding, there are risks of confusing the pedagogical relationship, since it is dialogical, with friendship. This position is shared by Morgan and Guilherme (2014: 4) when affirming that:

Moreover, the notion of ‘mutuality’ displayed in I-Thou relations must not be confused with some sort of ‘reciprocity’. In the case of reciprocity, an individual ‘does something for or to another and in return the other is allowed or expected to do something for or to the first’ in return, while in the case of mutuality individuals ‘do something together’, which could not be done separately (Morgan; Guilherme, 2014, p. 4).

Retaking the questions asked in the introduction of this item in the text, we dared to affirm that there is an ongoing dialogical process, whose evidence manifests in the culture of complaint, in accordance with the fact that teachers and students express their discomfort, expectations, needs and incompleteness. The understanding and diffusion of the conceptions of dialogue in Freire and in Buber contribute to the analyses of the lived and the perceived dimensions in the pedagogical relationship of the contemporary school as echoes and translations of what is conceived in the education policies and pedagogical theories. Nevertheless, the transitive process oscillates between the desire for a dialogical pedagogical relationship and the objectification of the relation, where the other, whether teacher or student, is on the horizon of the obtainment of some benefits for the constitution of the Self.

Final Considerations

The text was structured based on the echoes from empirical data, constructed both in the experience as teacher in basic education and in the development of research on and in the school everyday life, and classified teachers’ and students’ complaints on the teaching and school experience as cultures of complaint in the pedagogical relationship. To decipher such systematization, it drew on Freire’s and Buber’s contributions, as well as on their commentators’, on the role of dialogue as principle and method in the pedagogical relationship.

The deepening into the theoretical conceptions on dialogue enabled an interpretation and suggestion of the pedagogical relationship experienced by the research participants as an objectifying relation, close to Buber’s formulations on the I-It relationship, and Freire’s formulations on the theory of the anti-dialogical action in education.

The analytical and interpretative effort of the text sought to trace the genesis of the complaint that accompanied the statements of teachers and students who collaborated with the research developed. Due to inspiration derived from the regressive-progressive method that runs through Lefebvre’s work, which was described and analysed by Pais (2015, p. 272), we agree that “In a network of mediation, the perceived plays the role of intermediary (mediation) between the lived and the conceived (between life and reflection).” This premise reinforces the context of the argument announced in the text, because the complaint would be the mediator that brings the lived pedagogical relationship to the plane of reflection. The words of Pais (2015) accentuate the importance of mediations in the analysis of representations as a way to identify the presences in the absences, for purposes of deciphering the everyday enigmas. The complaint is the presence that challenges the excavation of what is not named and is in the underground of the research participants’ narratives, whose absence was identified as being an objectifying pedagogical relationship. In other words, the conflictive pedagogical relationship, not named as such, would be an absence that becomes present by the complaint.

The risks of only remaining on the surface level, that is, in the scope of the complaint, in detriment of what is underneath, may lead to the reinforcement of common sense, expressed through: teacher and student victimization; accusation of students not caring about anything, and statements where the family has the role of educating and the school is assigned to teach; and, still, students’ repulsion to classes considered boring and of mere transmissive character. Pais (2015) emphasizes that it is not about privileging one aspect in detriment of the other, but establishing the relations between both dimensions, between the evident and the hidden. The consideration of these two dimensions made it possible to develop the argument of the existence of an objectifying pedagogical relationship that is distanced from a truly dialogical relationship.

The naming of the complaint is perceived in the teaching and school experience and portrays a type of pedagogical relationship lived at school, in connection or under the influence of one conceived, for example, in the school curriculum and in educational policies. Moreover, the manifestation perceived in the cultures of complaint suggests a transitive process on the rise that moves from a naive consciousness about teacher and school experience toward a close perception of critical consciousness, still lived in distinct routes for teachers and students.

The complaint expresses nonconformity. Expressing it is a dimension or an attempt at dialogue. The critical and epistemological consciousness involved in the analysis of dialogue in the pedagogical relationship can produce the necessary resonances for the understanding, interpretation and transformation of reality: the disassociation of the relationship in order to overcome an objectifying pedagogical relation based on the I-It relationship, toward a genuine relationship, anchored on the I-Thou relationship. The school, therefore, is and should be a space of speech and listening, both for the words spoken and for those silenced in the recesses of what is conceived, lived and perceived in everyday school life.


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1I acted as Basic Education teacher, initially in private school, and, most of the time, in the Municipal Education System of Caxias do Sul, in several functions, from 1982 to 2015. The text is connected with two projects: one funded by CNPq, To observe the school and its margins: plural perspectives in dialogue; and other fostered funded by CAPES, The right to education in school everyday life: dimensions of the conceived, lived and perceived.

2The two charts presented synthesize analyses inserted into other publication (Stecanela, 2016).

3Conceived, lived and perceived are everyday life dimensions considered by Lefebvre.

Received: September 10, 2017; Accepted: December 14, 2017

Nilda Stecanela has doctorate and master degree in Education from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS). She developed post-doctorate studies in Education, through CAPES scholarship, at the Institute of Education/University of London. Nowadays, she is research and graduation chancellor, professor of the permanent body of the Program of Graduation in Education at UCS and co-editor of Revista Conjectura: Filosofia e Educação. She coordinates the Education Observatory at the same institution. E-mail:

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