Building Bridges

Building Bridges

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Facilitator

The literacy goal(s) of the project is to center students and their prior knowledge; it is to acknowledge our multiple selves that meet at the intersections when we gather to share, build, recreate and create meaning.  Ultimately, the goal is for us to develop a community and find successful methods and use them to follow paths that lead us to multiple literacy outcomes.

A student centered classroom built on a foundation of dialogue and collaboration takes focus and time. It is time well worth the effort because outcomes are rewarding in many ways.

To establish a truly student centered classroom the facilitator must build community.

The quick points:
  • create a welcome letter that shares something personal and ask them to share
  • first week concentrate on community building activities and comfort - have some fun
  • focus on language safety and make clear engagement rules that are equal and fair
  • always have something that's fun, creative and connected to the class material (eg. Scrabble for words, use words from novels/books for extra points - competition with self not partner)
  • do meaningful out of class work at times - go outside (eg. sit in cafeteria and describe - deal with the senses)
  • include students in decision making (eg. who do they think society ignores; what issues need more voice, etc.)
  • always have meaningful research to connect with the world (eg. teach the class about geographic location; what religions; what do can we learn about culture? etc.)
  • always give chances for students to share (their observations and experiences)
  • have students choose to go with a group of two or three - no more
  • let students decide on presentation structure - don't choose the front of the classroom
  • presentations can be done like talk shows
  • discuss technology and what it can produce - have students discuss the best technology for their presentations

STUDENTS TALK (link to come)
A message to facilitators (teachers/instructors)

My overall reading goal is - The Novel as a Bridge to the Real World

The environment will always be diverse in many ways.  In order to be truly  fair to the "student centered" approach one has to be always flexible and willing to struggle with discomfort.  Staying cognizant of your own identity and position is necessary to this approach; it makes you question every decision you make; you will take nothing for granted.

Share information always.  Explain your approach to teaching and allow students to collaborate and participate in the governance of your environment.  Be explicit about expectations and outcomes; discuss the short term goals (grades if necessary and appropriate) and the long term goals (the realities of social issues and the role that education plays in change).

Allow time for collaboration and individual preparation.  Give students time to come up with ideas before hand.  In this way you accommodate different personalities; the introverted student has some more time to think and all students feel their ideas contribute.  Keep groups to three; give students enough tasks to engage different talents and strengths.

See list of books and quotes.

Goals: community, sharing, examining reality, producing literacy projects, reading, writing, computer
Multimedia essays – Students create published products on blogs, Youtube presentations

form community using personal letters, introductions, group work

Read oral histories and novels as bridge to real world
Use bloom’s taxonomy to create questionnaires for interviews
use questionnaires to give order to essays - visual and written
interview family and community members
transcribe interviews
use interviews to create essays, visual projects and youtube presentations

critical thinking - crossing borders and stepping into other shoes
sentence structure
essay structure
essay maps
outline maps


The above photo decorates my office door.

As most teachers know, receiving any unsolicited thank you from a student that reflects his or her experiences in the classroom is, not only touching but, affirming; it is appreciated as a precious piece of acknowledgement that goes a long way in supporting what we do in the classroom.   When we confront the many ups and downs of the profession and the many struggles with our flux in confidence we need to know that students benefit.  My question is always... Have I engaged them; will the engagement be sustained?

How did I come to this profession? Facilitator of reading!  It is a profession and a purpose that so many take for granted.  Consequently, it is important to note that reading, as I see it, is far more than deciphering abstract marks on a page.  Reading is a complex set of behaviors that contribute to the constant construction of self, identity... it is the forming of knowledge couched in the tug of war between nature and nurture.  Therefore, it is the shaping of society.  This view makes my position, as an instructor, one of power.  This power is political; it can be used in multiple ways.  In a society plagued with issues of class, race, gender, age, ethnicity, and various others that divide people and perpetuate inequality the book becomes a powerful tool.

As far back as I can remember I found my way in books.  Books were my bridges.  As a child, books were the dreams that took me through the tragedies in my childhood.  They took me on journeys of pleasure that numbed pain too complex for the immature mind.  At that time I was unaware that I was constructing self as well as knowledge.  As  an adult, books made sense of those same childhood tragedies and they unraveled the adult traumas.

As an avid reader, I recognized the power of books in my life. My experiences and my observations led me to choose the role of reading instructor. Simply put, I wanted to guide learners into the world of books; I wanted to walk with them into a world of critical thinking. I was motivated to use books/novels to examine the real world.

Fiction and non-fiction! Books - Novels.  On their own they are paper and ink, but they are also the explosives planted at the closed doors of hidden histories;they are the explosives planted at the corners of closed minds.  They are the ladders over walls that seem impenetrable; they are the ropes into open windows and they are the ropes thrown to drowning minds.

As I grew and my world expanded, I encountered those who didn't read and who seemed alienated from the world of books.  It stirred my concern; I wanted to share my experiences with books often because I traveled alone; and this frustration stayed with me.  How could I bring them into the world of books long enough for them to experience the intense emotional high and intellectual stimulation.  I was convinced that once they had these experiences, a desire would be ignited and they would never turn back.

Today, it is that same belief that is at the root of all of my work.  It is the very same craving for new knowledge that continues to grow in me; it continues to inspire my work as an educator.  I see reading as one activity that allows me to practice meta-cognition.  I can use my will, my agency, to recognize and analyze the effects that society has on my position and I can examine how they shape me; and I can be vigilant about how I contribute to the "truth."  Like Paulo Freire, I want to work along with the students in the real world as I guide them and they work their ways through books and other media and, in so doing, recognize the power of their voices.

The project I share on this site is one conceived in a milieu of  pain, pleasure and purpose.  Student questions motivated me ten or more years ago, and they still do today.  Who was Denmark Vesey and why don't we know him?  This question was from a 6th grader.  And, the other question.  Why don't we know Paul Robeson, he has done so much?  That one was from a city college student.

Along with student questions was the slow growing need to counteract the impact that colonization had had on the image of other peoples; colonization had and continues to demonize color.  I felt the deep need to be vigilant; I felt a need to take charge of the shaping of my mind.  It was a conscious act of resistance.  I intended to capture the beauty of the majority and I started with people of African descent.  I took action; I searched for stories of resistance; I found Bobby Vaughn; I bought cameras; I bought a Spanish/English dictionary and I arrived in Cuajiniquilapa, Costa Chica, Guerrero, Mexico.  That was 1999 and I continue to follow that path.

A 21st Century Literacy Project is a program to honor students and to center voices. After 10 years of teaching reading and writing courses at a city college, I believe this program is a critical contribution to the enhancement of student potential today.

"It is rather astounding that so many noninformed, or at best partially informed, yet otherwise learned personages have felt and still feel that although they themselves could not replicate the grunts, moans and groans of their Black contemporaries, they could certainly explain the utterances and even give descriptions, designs ad desires of the utterers. Black Americans often have found themselves in disagreement with many who have cavalierly drawn their portraits."
Maya Angelou's foreword for Dust Tracks on a Road
The quote above resonates with me as a black woman educator. In the 21st century, this is still the reality. Most importantly, I recognize the multiple communities that fall into this category... communities of difference and communities that are made to exist on the margins of social consciousness.

As a university student, I started an after school program in Oakland and received funding.

My dissertation, "Private Views to Public Voices: Engaging Our Students," focused on student engagement and sustained learning. In 2012, I am of the belief that the educational system needs reshaping and rethinking more than the student body.

After four years teaching fifth and sixth graders, I decided to follow high school students and gather information. At that time, 2001, my findings supported Gardner's seven intelligences and Paulo Freire's attention to relevant information and the student teacher relationship. It also supported Vygotsky's concept of the zone of proximal development as it relates to prior knowledge. This information supported my goal of centering students as a part of my purpose as an educator; and that purpose is to guide students as they create knowledge and find power in their own voices.

No comments:

Post a Comment