|Empty Lot (M.A. Reilly. Harlem 2012)|
"I love those who yearn for the impossible." - Goethe
I received this tweet early this evening from Heidi Siwak (@HeidiSiwak) that included a link to an important post, Creative Solutions are No Accidents. (Please take a moment to read.)
I stopped what I was doing and read the post and then reread it and then thought: There's such scholarship and generosity--inquiry and curiosity in Heidi's work as a teacher and learner. What I so appreciated in the work and processes Heidi describes is the occasioning of thinking and problem solving, alongside community that she composes. Complexity cannot be caused. At best, it can (sometimes) be occasioned. Such understanding, especially when actualized, represents a major shift in teaching. We move from what should and ought to happen to what might or could happen.
We dwell in possibility (A fairer House than Prose...).
Heidi's work exemplifies such a shift.
Her work reminds of this important shift we also need to be thinking about when working with teachers:
Brian Street who first coined those phrase (autonomous and ideological) explains:
The ‘autonomous’ model of literacy works from the assumption that literacy in itself – autonomously – will have effects on other social and cognitive practices. The model, however, disguises the cultural and ideological assumptions that underpin it and that can then be presented as though they are neutral and universal ... The alternative, ideological model of literacy ... offers a more culturally sensitive view of literacy practices as they vary from one context to another. This model starts from different premises than the autonomous model – it posits instead that literacy is a social practice, not simply a technical and neutral skill ... It is about knowledge: the ways in which people address reading and writing are themselves rooted in conceptions of knowledge, identity, being. Literacy, in this sense, is always contested. (Street, 2000, pp.7-8).
|Forgetfulness (M.A Reilly, 2010)|
When I read about the intellectual and social spaces Heidi's work with children opens, I remember what it means to teach as a learner, not merely as a player cast in someone's already determined epic. What passes as teaching excellence in these CCSS days is paltry stuff--something akin to cheap magician tricks. How could such mimicry ever escape the paralysis that comes with the philosophical belief that literacies are neutral, universal: Repeat after me: Close reading. Evidence. Rigor. Complex Text. Close reading. Evidence. Rigor. Complex Text? It is as if meaning of these terms remained universal, unmoving, untouched--not something emerges as it is being made. Bakhtin described such phenomena well when he wrote: “[d]iscourse lives, as it were, beyond itself, in a living impulse toward the object; if we detach ourselves completely from this impulse all we have left is the naked corpse of the word” (1981, p. 292). In so many ways, the resurgence of CCSS certainty is as Bakhtin (1981) describes epic: a poem about the past” told by “a man speaking about a past that is to him inaccessible” (p. 13).
In contrast a living impulse describes well the classroom Heidi shares with students as they create and deconstruct--test constraints that confine and liberate. The means to thoughtful inquiry is composed, not copied.
No simulacrum there.
This is the great stuff of teaching--learning.
The trial and error.
The making of failure and more failure and within that the opening of big, big space where ideas bloom wild and becomes named alongside critique.
Oh, to be a learner there.