A couple of years ago while in graduate school, I found myself hard pressed to come up with a definition for the word literacy that went beyond the skills of reading and writing. Since then, through my studies and experience, I’ve developed a deeper understanding of the concept of literacy and how I hope to nurture the teaching and learning of literacy as a leader of learning.
Full literacy means recognizing there are multiple literacies used in different social, cultural, and political contexts. As educators, it is incumbent upon us to create learning environments that allow students to better understand their own identity and practice sharing their narrative with others. How do we accomplish this?
Within the Spanish classroom, I’ve learned how important it is to build rapport with my students. Speaking another language can be intimidating and it’s essential that the student/teacher relationship is built on trust. The teacher should also recognize the unique gifts and talents of his or her students.
Further, teachers must move away from the need to feel in control of every aspect of the classroom. Ideally, teaching and learning is multidirectional—from teacher to student, from student to teacher, and between and amongst students. This also helps to nurture safe, trusting student-teacher relationships, while active listening helps create honesty, empathy, and mutual respect within the classroom.
As students develop a sense of self and find their voice, they will begin to recognize acts of injustice, inequity, and unfairness when they see them. When they encounter these scenarios, we must empower them with strategies to push back respectfully—to do so is to care for our children and believe in their potential to serve as agents of positive, equalizing change.