Laura Adams, literacy consultant at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, contributed today's post.
Professionally, this school year has been about two things for me: speaking and listening and culturally responsive practices. These areas have been the focus of my professional learning and, consequently, the focus of professionally co-developed resources. As I reflect on my journeys in these areas (which, like any area of professional growth, are on-going), I think about the places that these areas intersect.
I like intersections because I think that’s where meaningful learning and growth take place. Think about the intersection between reading and writing, or coaching and teaching, or teaching and learning, and at the point (or points) where those two things meet, you’ll find new ideas and great a-ha moments that lead to new ways of thinking and doing.
So here are my reflections about the intersection of speaking and listening and culturally responsive practices.
I speak and listen differently when I’m in different groups (immediate family, extended family, friends, literacy colleagues, colleagues in education, professional organizations, church groups, etc.) because each group has different ways of speaking and listening. This is probably not a new idea to you, my literacy-minded reader, but then I started to think about how I learned what speaking and listening behaviors were appropriate in the different groups I belong to. While I was growing up, there was a great deal of emphasis placed on the speaking and listening practices that occurred around the dinner table of my immediate family. My Dad was the authority. We listened to him speak and responded when called upon. He would ask follow-up questions or give directions about who was to complete which household chore before the next dinner time. So, in other words, the speaking and listening practices that I learned around the family dinner table set me up for success in school.
And then I started to think: What if they hadn’t? What if the speaking and listening behaviors so valued in my immediate family, critical for me to understand in order to connect with and relate to those people I was sharing space with day to day, were different from those behaviors valued in a school setting? Would I have learned those academic speaking and listening behaviors? Would I still have relied on observation to teach me how to speak and listen in other groups? Would I have been able to navigate back and forth between those worlds? Would I have graduated as an honor roll student? Would I have received that university scholarship? Would I be where I am today?
And, if that had been the case, how could my teachers have helped me to achieve academic success?
First, I would have needed my teachers to accept and respect me as I was versus being told that my speaking and listening behaviors were wrong. Second, I would have needed lots of modeling and for my teachers to reveal their thinking about how they said things or why they said things the way that they did. Third, I would have needed lots of guided practice in academic speaking and listening. Fourth, I would have needed that practice to be engaging and meaningful; for it to be applied to a specific situation or context that I could care about.
So what about you, my literacy-minded reader? What speaking and listening behaviors are valued in your groups? How did you learn them? What did you need to achieve academic success? And what can you do tomorrow to support ALL your students?