Truth be told, for the past three semesters I’ve always had a class in room 442. The first time I entered that room it was for a rhetoric class. I didn’t do too well. The concepts confused me, I didn’t know how to apply them in or outside of class, the use of screens in the room intimidated me and the fung shui of the room really weirded me out. The next semester, by chance, I happened to be taking a Brit lit class and once again found myself sitting in room 442. It wasn’t a terrible experience, and I did pretty well in that class but I never interacted with anyone outside of my table and I never really gave a second thought to any concepts once I left the classroom. You can imagine how I felt when it dawned on me that I had another class in room 442 for the third time. I was nervous. I figured it would be a repeat of Rhetoric: Boring and freaking confusing.
But something happened during that first week of Intro to Literacy, I saw students engaging with the material and fervent discussions based on insights and interpretations of the text, I saw students take ideas that they loved and view them under the lens of literacy, I saw students naturally wonder: “What is literacy?”
Initially, I never gave much thought towards literacy. I equated literacy with one’s ability to read and write in relation to academic texts. I felt that if you habitually read books and actively wrote on paper then you were considered ‘literate’. It wasn’t until we discussed Hamilton that I found new meaning in our studies, literary practices and events opened my eyes to the impact literacy plays upon our lives. I suddenly viewed poetry, hip hop and graffiti as something more than art, they can be tools to understand one’s relationship with writing, tools to understand how an individual’s sense of literacy develops and evolves, tools to understand identity.
My favorite example of this practice was when we were assigned to interview our friends or family on their literary practices. When I interviewed my grandpa I engaged with the ideas we were discussing in class, I was able to see how a habit of literacy practices-reading magazines, writing letters,etc.-influenced his current understanding of literacy. I also saw first hand how sponsorship from an institution shaped his habit of reading books voraciously.
As a future teacher I plan to engage my students with the idea that literacy isn’t restrained to our textbooks or a classroom. We can analyze literacy and its influence in the lyrics of our favorite songs, on the graphic designs of a t-shirt, through text messages, and even our favorite movies or video games. Understanding literacy isn’t dependent on how much we participate with high culture. I’ll let my students know that everyone’s experience with literacy is different and how we practice reading and writing can’t be measured. I will encourage them to explore the texts they interact with outside the classroom and reflect on how it shapes their own understanding of the world as well as their identity.
Intro to Literacy was my favorite class this semester. I enjoyed everyone’s company and conversation, I loved talking about poetry and hip hop in relation to literacy, I loved seeing videogames presented as a tool rather than entertainment, and I loved seeing people work together and trust each other enough to share raps and poems in a classroom. It’s rare when it happens but I’m going to miss this class and the people in it. Thank you all for making this semester great. Even though this is my third semester of sitting in the same classroom, tonight it actually makes me feel sad that on Monday I won’t be back in room 442.
So here’s to looking at you, kid. Cheers.