A literacy and numeracy program guided by the more progressive definitions of literacy, located within the framework of the whole language philosophy, and conducted with feminist counselling principles effectively becomes a tool for the empowerment of women.
- Women’s subjectivities, contexts and particular situations are valued in the conduct and creation of the program.
- The program is fully participatory, with conceptions of classroom power redefined and classroom power redistributed.
- The conduct of the class is an exercise of and training for social justice in the questioning power dynamics during discussions of texts, stories, news, and real-life situations.
- Each woman feels the direct benefits and impacts as a learner because her felt needs are understood, acted upon and met.
- They gain control over everyday tasks and struggles, as well as anticipate control over future tasks and options.
- They begin to view happiness and fulfilment as an entitlement.
Based on the things I had learned and continue to learn about the LITNUM women in my encounters with them, and based on my decisions informed by my background in Education and Women and Development (fusion of Teacher/ Literacy Worker and Development Worker/Feminist), I employed the following strategies for a whole language and feminist classroom:
- To break classroom structures of power by asking them to sit in a circle with me on the floor, or in a round. Even as they preferred that I sit at a desk and they sit across me, in a position of power ruling over minions, I repeatedly invited them to sit with me, and slowly, since they would join me, they instead allowed me to join them.
- To redistribute classroom power: I repeatedly ask them to address me by my first name; I explained that I was there to help in the ways that I could, which happened to be teaching,, and that I hoped they would learn from me as much as I knew I was going to learn from them.
- To collaborate with them on curriculum design. I emphasized that we were going to decide on the topics of study together, as a collaborative effort, because what they want to learn and need to learn are important things for me to know;
- To put them in charge of their own learning. We discuss efforts and possible projects for their continuous learning. We have been brainstorming on their mobile library, which they will manage in connection to our lessons. They hope to start with a few textbooks and grow the collection from there. They are currently deciding on the rules, but have agreed to extend access to the library to their children.
- To always consider their schedules and find a common time that works for everyone so that all can be accommodated and can attend. Thus we avoid work days and loan payment days, and we also discuss the days when they will not be available. Just two days ago, they informed me that they were going to have activities with Gabriela, so we will be meeting again next week instead.
- To address their perceived needs and assure them that these are important because these actions communicate to them their value as people and as women;
- To give unconditional positive regard, by leading them to decide for themselves that learning can occur at any age, that it’s never too late to learn, and there is no shame in learning a little later than others, that it’s wonderful to learn in a classroom, and that they deserve to enjoy this time for themselves, and the like;
- To take opportunities to address their internalized oppressions and self-evident truths, through stories, sharing of opinions, self-disclosure;
- To be an enabler of their agendas. The learners are always part of the decision-making process, and I help them to make what they want to happen happen. As the teacher, I propose, explain, and negotiate the terms of enabling their agenda (learning tasks and activities to meet their needs) with them.
- Content literacy research into practice (slideshare.net)
- Embedded Formative Assessment (henriksenlearning.wordpress.com)
- Literacy: Freedom of choice can be complicated… (jasonrenshaw.typepad.com)