We developed a pedagogy addressing both academic literacies and critical analysis where students would, with limited facilitation, actively engage with texts and each other. In this article we reflect on what the students who engaged with the pedagogy taught us: that teachers need to be much more than facilitators—we need to ‘meddle in the middle’. In developing the pedagogy we found the key obstacles were the liberal concepts of independence and objectivity—they led students to search for discrete objective ideas and to ignore the context shaping them. Drawing on the ideas of Theodor Adorno and of socio-cultural approaches to literacy, the pedagogy prompted students to sketch constellations on whiteboards of their understanding of the learning materials, drawing on lectures, readings, and their pre-existing knowledges. This article, reflecting qualitative research with students, reports their view that the pedagogy succeeded because of their interactive, engaged, relationship with their teachers. Considering those findings, we discuss how liberalism operates to repress students’ pre-existing knowledges and how this can be countered by teachers’ passion, care, and close engagement. What the students taught us was combatting liberalism requires more than well-scaffolded activities, but active, authentic, enthusiastic, relationships of trust that value both the contributions of students and teachers.