Welcome to the crazy wisdom parade.

This is where Literacies readers shared their literacy wisdom until July 31, 2008. We had a great time. Please feel free to explore and comment and continue to add floats.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Reflective Writing

wendell dryden
They / we asked "How are we using our research skills on the fly? What happens?"

Here's one answer: My boss thinks I'm smarter than I am.

She asked me for some year-end highlights and good news stories for the Annual General Meeting. I had some stuff at hand [key point here - more in a moment] and quickly pulled together a six page report with text and images.

She was pleased and impressed, seeing my report as an example of "good ideas" and "a way to share". She decided to circulate copies to other staff - who now hate me with some cause. (Just kidding!)

Here's the thing: that "stuff at hand" was my blog postings.

wendell dryden

I've always written stuff down in a sort of daily journal. I started because I was wretched at imposed paperwork. I've always scrambled before each reporting period to complete monthly attendance forms, official workplans and so on. I'm just plain bad at filling in all those little boxes.

But, it's easy for me to create a daily narrative. So that's what I do. Only, now, I also blog some things as well.

When I blog about my work, I build up a record of ideas that worked and ideas that didn't work, of my own reflections and those of my learners. Because it's a blog, this rich information is already typed, digitally available in a searchable format, and often accompanied by appropriate images. This allows me to quickly draft up a thoughtful overview of the year, or - maybe - a paper for a journal like Literacies.

Of course, I record far more than I blog. It is inappropriate to share some things. When I do share, I still need to preserve the privacy and dignity of both my learners and my employers. I also need to reflect on the meaning or significance of what I'm writing, what I'm seeing - I need to draw some conclusions.

In any case, whether I blog or simply write notes to myself, this daily recording of thoughts and observations allows me to look back on and appraise my work. That's the other, more important answer to the question, "What happens?" I get to look back, think, maybe change my mind. Do better. That's valuable to me.

What you think and learn and do is valuable to me too.

If you don't journal, why not consider it? If you do, why not think about starting your own literacy blog? Think of how you could add to our nation's store of literacy wisdom and wonder by sharing even once a week.

Think about it.


peace words

small words make meaning

some big words expand my mind

and peace words make peace

by juditcalm

Thursday, May 29, 2008

here is one

Scattered words on white
I crave to know your meaning
Speak to me out loud.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

job satisfaction

Love my work, hate my job.
(sent in anonymously)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Letter Writing Project

Letters to Kenya,
Sharing, learning, hope
New inspiration.

Grace Santeramo Beckles

Friday, May 23, 2008

Reflective Reading

They asked (We asked) "What do you do when you come to something in your literacy work that is puzzling or problematic? How do you work to solve the puzzle? How does the process of research, experimentation and reflection enhance your practice?"

I'm a reader, and so, when I've got troubles, I hit the books.

Several weeks back, Ballet Girl and I were musing about the books we read for professional reasons. In writing and thinking about that, I realized I have three different book lists in my head.

The Officially "Important" Books

One list is made up of the books I think I ought to read - books I've learned second-hand to call "important". Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970) is a good example of one. Everybody around here says its a good book, an important book. So, I own a copy. But, truth is, it's not that important to me.

The Books that are Important to Me

The important (to me) books are books that help me reflect on my work and this field in a general way. Most of Denny Taylor's books fall into this category. I re-read, say, Learning Denied (1990) or Toxic Literacies (1996) or Beginning to Read and the Spin Doctors of Science (1998) because they help me make sense of my efforts by setting them in a larger, often conflictual framework.

James Herndon's The Way It Spozed To Be (1968) and How To Survive In Your Native Land (1971) fit under this heading. So do Ivan Illich's admittedly dense Deschooling Society (1970), and Jonathan Kozol's The Night is Dark and I am Far From Home (1975).

I notice these are mostly American books about schooling or the literacy development and education of children and youth in the U.S. Where are the Canadian books on adult literacy? Is basic adult education in Canada still too fragile a field to produce comprehensive, practice-based critical reflection?

Two books that do come to mind are Something to Think About - Please Think About This (1997) by Susan Hoddinott, and Literacy and Labels: A Look at Literacy Policy and People with a Mental Handicap (1990) compiled by G. Allan Roeher Institute (pictured above). Yet, neither of these books reaches me the way I'm reached by the stories and simply worded self-reflections in (American school teacher) John Holt's How Children Fail. The second edition of How Children Fail (1983) is a wonderful example of how to share on-going reflective practice.

The Books I Don't Stop Reading

Then there are the books I return to every few weeks or months because they help me reflect on specific challenges. There are may be a dozen of these, I suppose. Jenny Horsman's Too Scared To Learn (1999) is one. Another is Tracy Carpenter's The Right To Read (1986). Another is Pat Campbell's Teaching Reading to Adults (2003). Another is Anabel Newman's Adult Basic Education: Reading (1980).

There are other books. I won't make a complete list here. I'm not sure how well these books translate: they are valuable to me partly because they match the way I scaffold reading and basic education. Also, they have value because they address the sort of things I've been reflecting on over the past couple of years.

For example, at one time, last year, 100% of the female learners in my learning group were being actively harassed or abused by current or former male partners. Not surprisingly, I re-read Horsman a lot that year. I spent a lot of time re-reading William Glasser's Choice Theory / Reality Therapy books as well. I read, wrote side-notes, reflected, tried things, read more....

Does that mean everyone should read these books? No. These just happen to be the books that have helped my reflection in practice.

Your Turn

What about you? Never mind the "officially important" books - tell me about the books or essays out there that support your reflections. What books and essays you re-read? Do you mine them for ideas or encouragement? for grand overviews or specific challenges? Are they the same titles you would put on a recommended reading list for a new literacy worker or your Member of Parliament? How many are Canadian titles?

Let us know in the comments, or post then here. (Instructions are over there in the right-hand sidebar under "How To".)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Community Literacy

no stiff necked test scores,
just sunlight, soft chairs, stories
someplace we can read.

[second draft :P]

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

subverting power and danger

Telling our stories
We subvert power, danger
Laughing, we go on

by Maria Moriarty

Monday, May 19, 2008


bold teacher transmits,

and with bold student transforms, 
what has been given 

Thursday, May 15, 2008

haiku floats

May 16 to 18 is Haiku Canada Weekend. Let's make the first week of the parade haiku week.

A simple explanation of haiku is that it is a 3 line poem of 17 syllables. The first line is 5 syllables, the second line is 7 syllables and the third line is 5 syllables. The first 2 lines set the scene and the third line makes a comment - sort of.

literacy work--
from chaos and disorder
wisdom sparkles fly

Of course, there is much more to haiku.
Haiku @ Wikipedia : Haiku For Beginners : Shadow Poetry : Haiku Project

If Haiku is not your style, why not try a 6-word story Hemingway style? Can you write your literacy memoir in 6 words? Comment below or create your own post.

Was taught. Hated it. Now teach.

More literacy 6-word stories here.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


Welcome to the Literacy Wisdom Forum
Join the reflective practice / literacy wisdom parade!

Help us celebrate what can happen when literacy workers find the time and space to reflect, research and network about practice.

In Focused on Practice, the first national study of research in practice in Canada, *practitioners ... spoke of the use of technology as a way to link, energize and provide opportunities for exchanging ideas and sharing innovative solutions.

Technology such as an open blog?

And *many practitioners believe they use research skills 'on the fly' all the time in order to be effective teachers.

We believe that too. We know that everyday, in literacy programs all over the country (world), literacy workers are asking questions, are trying out new activities and processes, are reflecting on their experiments, are coming to conclusions and then questioning those conclusions to start the cycle over again.

What do you do when you come to something in your literacy work that is puzzling or problematic? How do you work to solve the puzzle? How does the process of research, experimentation and reflection enhance your practice?

How are we using our research skills on the fly? What happens?
Create your own float. We are waiting along the route. There will be cheering!

We will start the parade on May 16th, the International Day for Sharing Stories, and continue on through the summer of 2008.

*from Literacies #8, page 27