(I didn’t read the assignment in the order it was given: Brandt’s text then Carter’s text. In hind sight, I wish I would have. Not having read Brandt did not encumber my understanding of Carter’s text, but, while reading Brandt’s text, I was hooking Deborah Brandt’s ideas/words to Shannon Carter’s instead of the other way around.)
I remember being eight years old confessing to my father my plans to run away. He asked me why I needed to leave. I told him that nobody understood me. As an adult, I know it was because my imagination hindered my ability to fit in with my brothers and sisters. While my sisters read romance novels, I sat in the living room making up stories about the furniture coming to life and taking over the house. Because the arm chair didn’t like my father farting on it, it started a revolution against the humans. While my brothers were outside sword fighting with sticks, I was in a tree writing a story about morphing into a dragonfly and visiting playgrounds around the world. My attempts to share my stories were met with “Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Uh-huh.” Then, “Shut up.” Then, “Why do you have to talk so much?” I was not a good student in high school (as confessed in earlier posts). Through knowledge comes understanding. I know I was not a good student because my literacies were not recognized first as a child and then as an adolescent and then in the military. The first line of defense comes in the form of disengagement then rebelliousness. Recipe for a low GPA. I am almost forty and just beginning to trust my voice and speak out and share my imagination. I am rewiring my ideology, my pedagogy, my metacognition, my literacies and loving every minute of it.
I cannot fathom the number of students who are sitting in desks across the nation whose voices and literacies are being snuffed because they do not fit in with what their teachers, parents, and communities expect of them. The depressing thing is I’m guilty of it, too. When Carter confesses of not meeting every kid’s needs (not out of malice but just because it didn’t dawn on her), I felt a pang of guilt. In all honesty, the laundry list of tasks teachers deal with on a daily basis is astronomical. “Be there for your students.” is, unfortunately, not number one. They say, “It’s all about the kids.” but it really isn’t. It’s about dollar signs and inclusion and interventions and checklists and binders. It is extremely challenging to remember that student x needs fifteen minutes extra time and student y needs his handouts on yellow paper and student z is allowed cooling off periods whenever he sees fit. Some drama has gone down at work…I’m venting…let me move on.
Brandt writes, “…[L]iteracy as a resource becomes available to ordinary people largely through the mediations of more powerful sponsors” (173). Knowledge is not owned. Knowledge circulates in the air like radio waves. If people are introduced to the knowledge and find it interesting, they will sink their teeth into it and learn something new. More times than not the literacy that will get them into the higher stratosphere comes from the stratosphere to which the person wishes to belong; you won’t make it to the boardroom with street vernacular. But it’s not that simple. When people, especially those from lower stratified communities, want to improve themselves, they set goals for a higher standard of living. They see that their parents’ lives are not the lives for them. However and unfortunately, this desire to be better gets translated as a slap in the face (not always, but often). “You think you’re better than me?” This may be the reason that the majority of first generation college graduates return to humanitarian jobs: teachers, police officers, etc.
Example: A few years ago, I had a teenage mother confess to me that she had a baby because her mother wouldn’t get the assistance check once my student turned 18. Bright girl, but, much like Carter’s Monica, this student was not going to leave her community.
I am reading (listening to) Freakonomics (2005) by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. It is phenomenal! They write of a drug lord of a Chicago inner city gang with a business degree—J.T. In an interview, he told a post-graduate student, Venkatesh, that once he graduated with his degree, he began working for a marketing department of a company that sold office equipment. J.T. said he felt so out of place “like a white man working at Afro Sheen headquarters” that he quit. (n.p.)
I like connecting the idea of literacy to elements ‘outside of education.’ If I consider having certain ‘literacies’ as belonging to certain groups, my students have so many different ‘literacies’ to which I am illiterate. Reading Carter’s text caused a Eureka moment. When we get back from Thanksgiving Break, I am going to ask my students: 1. to think and list all the different ‘literacies’ to which they are members 2. report/share examples of the ‘personal literacies’ and 3. link them to the educational literacies they are required to belong and, finally, 4. link them to literacies they wish to belong. We’ll see if the connections happen naturally or if it will be forced. I did a similar activity with ‘voice’ and all the different roles they have; that happened naturally. I predict the literacy conversation will too.