This semester, students in READ 6310 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.
When I first became a teacher, five years ago, it was quite a daunting task. But quickly, and after various trainings and numerous workshops (and practice), I became quite good at it…or so I thought. I was assigned department head my second year, was named teacher of the year my third year and then Elementary Teacher of the District. What an honor! I quickly became a leader at my campus; I was helping other teachers, doing trainings and even presented at a big conference. And while I felt confident in my teaching ability, I knew I had more to learn, especially with regards to teaching reading. I then entered the Reading Program and realized how little I do know, but should know as a teacher.
My life and way of thinking, being and seeing the world, especially as a teacher, has drastically changed since my first class last semester. After reading Frank Smith, Paulo Freire, Margaret Moustafa, Yetta Goodman (who infected me with habitual kidwatching) and numerous others; after learning about multiculturalism, transactional theory, critical literacy and everything that falls within, I wonder how, why every teacher is not exposed/ equipped with all of these ideas, theories and practices! Although I am making a generalization, in my five years and two districts, none of the above were ever mentioned, discussed or suggested by any trainer or administrator. Why should one enter grad school to learn this valuable information that is extremely pertinent to their job and to the lives of their students? I am baffled by this because now I cannot imagine teaching without knowing what I now know.
Does this mean that I wasn’t a good teacher after all, or that if teachers don’t know, they aren’t good teachers? Of course not, but imagine how much better we all can be for ourselves and our students if we all had these ideas to consider and implement. Maybe teaching traditional phonics hasn’t been working for some and knowing about Smith’s and Moustafa’s ideas would bring great changes (and results) to their practices. Maybe after reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, critical literacy is practiced in more meaningful ways with students. This can be life changing! What if learning what Yetta Goodman’s “kidwatching” is and because of it, students’ actions begin to tell stories and inform (it did for me)?
As teachers we are busy, swamped; swimming in a sea of school work. We are provided with curriculums and adoptions to follow. Do these ever suggest the idea of multicultural literacy? Probably not; they might actually omit most multicultural ideas, or as we’ve learned, provide a shallow tourist approach. We all now know the implications of a classroom without multicultural literacy and how valuable it is, particularly with our student population. Teachers must be exposed to these ideas in a meaningful way and be able to act on them in their classrooms, but need they be in school to learn?
What about Rosenblatt’s transactional theory? Are all teachers familiar with discussing aesthetic questions versus efferent questions with their students or modeling how to discuss them with each other? Are teachers supplementing their basal “literature” with high quality literature that lends itself to a more personal, artistic experience? If not, I believe they would if they knew of Rosenblatt and her works.
I know many teachers are very knowledgeable with the above and more, but I wasn’t and I have not worked with anyone who has ever discussed or practiced what I have and continue to learn. I take it seriously; this knowledge stirs up urgency and a passion that makes me be a better person, better teacher and a better thinker. I want other teachers to know of these things because they are important. I want teachers to of know these things because we have an obligation to our students. I want teachers to know about these things so that they have a choice. I strongly feel that these theories, authors, ideas and practices should be common knowledge and discussion in our schools amongst teachers, administrators and students. After all, we are trying to facilitate higher order thinking and well-rounded being.