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Reflective Practice

As teachers, tutors, administrators, and practitioners of all kinds attempt to live in light of what we know about the impacts of violence on learning, we encounter tensions and blocks and all sorts of truths out there in the world that in turn affect our own learning. And as we put our ideas into practice, we gain understanding and discover surprising possibilities.  Here you’ll find insights from both institutional and community settings – and hear the voices of practitioners as they wrestle with what these things look like in practice.

Walking the Line: A Critical Reflection on Tutor-Learner Dynamics

This reflection captures my back-and-forth struggle with some common practices and discourses within literacy. Our relationships with learners, and their inherent power dynamics, imply some high-stakes ethical questions. Here, I challenge myself and others to consider the implications for learners when we begin to engage with them as tutors and as people. See the document here. (PDF file)

A poem about power relations (PDF file)

Before any of our work in learning spaces can begin, students need to actually come to class. Students who don't can trigger a lot of frustration - and assumptions - in teachers. Attendance is the hardest part for some people, and institutions and individuals can respond to absence in ways that make it easier - or harder. "But How Can I Teach Her if She Can't Get Her Bum on the Seat?" is Jenny Horsman's moving and meditative illustration of this issue.

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How it Looks: Optics and White Ally-ship

The word “optics” rightly makes many of us feel a bit suspicious. The word comes into play when we’re trying to get funding or services – “How many learners does it look like our program has? Does it look like we’re helping them?”

Sometimes “how it looks” doesn’t correspond to reality, especially when we are asked to measure things that are hard to measure, or when really complex things have to fit into simple check-boxes – “Are you middle class? Are you mentally healthy?”

Still. How the same thing might look to different people is something worth exploring for anti-racist educators. When we think of social locations as vantage points, certain actions and reactions can start to make sense. Click here to read “Optics and White Allyship”, an article by Heather Lash that offers anti-racist educators some thoughts about the value of seeing from different perspectives.

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Discussion Papers by Ningwakwe (April 2007):

(PDF file All files are in PDF)

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You Can Teach an Old Dog New (Magic) Tricks - by Fay Holt Begg

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“Outside the Box” card series

  1. What kinds of groups do you have in your programs?
  2. Did you know that many learners in literacy programs have experienced volence?
  3. Think of 5 ways to bring music into your program
  4. What forms can violence take?
  5. Did you know?
  6. Thomas Merton on violence
  7. Do the resources in your program reflect diversity?
  8. How safe, comfortable and inviting is your space?
  9. Why have a women's group?
  10. Like canaries in the mine
  11. Resources in your community
  12. Social justice
  13. Low self-esteem can be a barrier to learning
  14. What kinds of 'human resources' do you have in your program?
  15. How do learners access resources in your community?
  16. Racism
  17. Exploring violence always brings up the issue of power
  18. Education is not neutral
  19. But I'm not a therapist
  20. Who is invisible in your community?
  21. How to say no
  22. Listening can make a world of difference
  23. What would you do if...?
  24. Helping learners heal from trauma/deal with crises
  25. Creativity can help with healing
  26. How safe is your program?
  27. Making learners feel safe
  28. Confidentiality
  29. Mind, Body, Emotions, Spirit
  30. Hidden Impacts of Trauma
  31. How safe are your files?
  32. Dealing with issues of power between staff and learners
  33. Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
  34. Disclosures and counselling
  35. What kinds of art activities do you have in your program?
  36. Have you considered creative activities for groups?
  37. Resources for learners about the impacts of violence on learning.
  38. Building communities of resistance
  39. Learn more about violence and learning
  40. Your personal space

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Moving Beyond Tokenism: Strengthening Community on Community Boards of Directors

This is a report on a project about meaningful and respectful inclusion of adult literacy learners on the Board of Directors of Parkdale Project Read, a community-based program in Toronto.

To move “token” participation into substantial, vital participation, it’s essential that Board materials and processes be accessible – the language and the rules have to be inclusive, and the literacy and numeracy available to people have to be honoured. But we also understand that for many learners, participation on a Board is hard for many reasons connected to the impacts of violence on their learning and on their relationships to power, authority, and institutions.

For many, it’s not so much about the materials, but it’s about the complicated dynamics of self doubt and blame of others; there may be anxiety about being included, and anger and resentment over past experiences of exclusion. All the times I was not heard might bring an expectation that I won’t be heard here either…  And do I really think I have anything worthwhile to say/contribute? If I have been silenced, or if I have used silence as a survival strategy in the face of violence, then speaking up and self-advocacy are tough.

The report talks about what Project Read did to include learners in ways that acknowledge all this, and how they did it – and has lots of practical models to follow.

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Marking for Confidence

The complex questions surrounding assessment are explored in this article. For people learning in the wake of violence, issues of confidence, self esteem, all-or-nothing thinking, and fears of being “wrong” can be tremendously important. Teachers and tutors want to encourage people, but still have assessment be useful and meaningful – and ideally, part of the learning itself. Here is Kate Nonesuch’s approach to marking work by learners, one that responds to what learners may be going through, and what they may need from evaluation.  

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