Power Share

Power Share

all in it togetherHere’s another story about sharing power with adult literacy students, to go with the one I posted last week called “Who’s in Charge Here?” Continue reading

Who’s in Charge Here?

Who’s in Charge Here?

Arriving Saltspring Island photo credit: irfy via photopin cc

Arriving Saltspring Island

I was just one of the crowd of people on the trip—old and young, fat and thin, First Nations and white people, male and female. We were off by bus and ferry to Saltspring Island for the day. My job was to blend in, to let myself be represented by students. They were in charge, and I was along for the ride. I didn’t know it would be so hard.   Continue reading

The Grammar Hatchet

The Grammar Hatchet

Actually me, in front, 70s.

Actually me, in front, demonstration, with Nancy Rosenberg
Ottawa Citizen, Apr. 7 1980

I had a taste, once, of someone using grammar to do a hatchet job on something that was full of meaning for me. Continue reading

Survival Strategies Come First

Survival Strategies Come First

Jenny HorsmanThe assignment was to make a graphic representation of the plot development in a novel we were reading together in class. To this end, I had assembled some supplies on a table in front of the room: various kinds of large sheets of paper, felt pens, pencil crayons, glue sticks, stickers and labels of the kind scrapbookers use, some collage materials, etc.

We talked about various possibilities, such as diagrams, time lines, and flow charts, Continue reading

Sylvia Ashton-Warner

Sylvia Ashton-Warner

Sylvia Ashton-Warner with children in classroom, ca 1951 Reference Number: PAColl-2522-2-001

Sylvia Ashton-Warner with children in classroom, ca 1951
Reference Number: PAColl-2522-2-001

I have roots in New Zealand. Not physical roots—none of my ancestors came from New Zealand, or, as far as I know, ever visited there. But the roots of my ideas about teaching came from Sylvia Ashton-Warner, whose book Teacher I read in the mid ’60’s. She has been the single most important influence on my teaching practice.

She wrote about teaching pre-school and primary school children, and as far as I know never taught adult literacy or wrote about helping adults improve their literacy skills. But her ideas about creativity, what she called “organic teaching,” her respect for and celebration of the ideas that came from her students, not from curriculum and received texts, all of which went along with solid practical advice about classroom management, schedules, and “discipline,” spoke to me when I was in training to become an elementary school teacher, and came back to me when, much later, I started in adult literacy. Continue reading

What’s Wrong with This Picture?

Dear Mom,
You are always wondering what my job is and what I do for work. A while back I worked with a group of adults in a research project who listed all their needs before they could return to regular school. It was a huge list. What I do is try to support the programs that offer learning to these adults.
Today I am in a swank hotel in Vancouver, surrounded by glitz, food and chocolate, talking about Literacy.
What Is wrong with this picture?
Dee Continue reading

I’m Sorry…

I’m Sorry…

temperPete was in my class that term, a student who described himself with pride as a “recovering asshole.” Most days it seemed to me that he was enjoying being stuck in the recovering stage, and wasn’t doing very much to move towards finally being “recovered.”

Still, we jostled along. He participated in class activities, and I held him accountable for treating others with respect.

One day in class he made a remark about women that seemed particularly aimed at me, and I lost it. I dressed him up one side and down the other. I can’t remember what he said, or what I said, but I remember that he shut up really quickly, and the other students  tried to look like they were somewhere else.

I went home feeling ashamed of myself. Continue reading