Thursday, April 26, 2007

Teacher Identity

Constructing Teacher Identity in the Basic Writing Classroom has been, for me, the most compelling article of the semester. Not only would I of course be interested in the subject of the teacher, but I was deeply impressed with Taylor's ability to assess herself as a teacher. And even more than this, I was surprised and moved that many of the terms she used to describe herself on her journey through Graduate Student teaching sounded an awful lot like those the students of basic writing used to define themselves. This essay drew me in because I could relate to Taylor's writing more than I could to a well-known name in the field like Mike Rose or someone like that.

As far as Taylor's teacher identity journal entries I was struck, as mentioned before, by the honesty she expressed, even when she sounded like a BW student herself. For example she expresses a transition she went through as follows: "Sometimes I felt like I lost a little bit of myself" (219) This is very similar to the process basic writers go through of assimilation. In theory, one must lost a part of the "outsider self" to become a member of the new community. The process for Taylor ran it's course and she was able to replace the part she had lost; "a questioning, engaged and often troubled teacher." (220) This is the journey of the BW student as well. She makes it clear, that through her journal entries and earnest mindfulness of who she is becoming as an educator, that she too is on a search for her academic identity. "This article suggests, then, that teachers might benefit from taking into account ways to engage in dialogue with students about how they are seeing us and not just about how we are seeing them." (227)

Ed. Halasek, Kay and Highberg, Nels P. Landmark Essays on Basic Writing. Mahway: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc, 2001.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

What is Literacy?

When prompted by the course instructor to define literacy, I, like many others in the class, defined it as the ability to read and write. This seemed to be the main concensus throughout the class. What Jerrie Cobb Scott is suggesting though, is that this is a "narrow definition" that encourages teachers to only look at the problems presented by non-mainstream groups whose literacies may differ (207). While I truly liked her definition of literacy -"ways of knowing, accessing, creating and using information", I am not sure I agree with the fact that to be truly literate one must be able to interpret verbal texts and create a social, personal and academic meaning from it. I still hear or see print advertisements that I just don't get. I'm sure there are many allusions in movies I see that I miss, or if I know it's an allusion to something I don't have the knowledge to comprehend it's meaning. I'm not sure this means that I lack literacy. I think it could point to a lack of cultural knowledge but no more. Ane no, I don't think that thourough cultural knowledge is essential for true literacy. I think that the ability to articulately express ideas and concerns (in whatever language you are operating) on paper or verbally in a manner that is not so egocentric, and the ability to interpret other's attempts to do the same, is literacy. I agree with Cob Scott that the "bottom line is that both knowledge and the care we take in delivering knowledge are important." (212) The more tools an individual has at their disposal to gain and share knowledge can be called the tools of literacy.

Ed. Halasek and Highberg. Landmark Essays. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001.