Beginning Literacy Learning

In Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks writes about the joy of learning she experienced in some of the classes she took in education. It seems that the most important aspect of learning was one the freedom to engage in ideas. Literacy classrooms are not usually like that. In literacy classrooms, teachers decide what the children read and often give prompts to tell what students should write about. You have assignments about what to read and in K-6 literacy classrooms to fill out workbook pages. If teachers promote writing at all in their classrooms, they tell you what to write about and of course the teacher will tell you how to format the paper. If you don’t follow the teacher’s direction, even your classmates will tell you, ‘that’s not right.’

In Between the World and Me, Ta-nehisi Coates writes about his love for the pursuit of knowledge on his own terms. He could not honestly match his means of knowing with the expectations of the professors. Freedom to Ta-nehisi was “the right to declare his own curiosities and follow them through all manner of books. I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests.”

So I have two questions for my teaching. First, how do I teach teachers to learn about teaching literacy for the PK-3 classroom in ways that honor the freedom and engagement that hooks and Coates talks about? The second question is, how can I engage the students in my class to learn to do this freely? More to come next week.