Drop that Knowledge: youth radio stories in the beginning chapters focuses on the three core parts of their teaching methodology: converged literacy, collegial pedagogy, and point-of-voice. The most immediately interesting section to me was on collegial pedagogy and the dichotomy of working with students while also guiding and advising them.
The power dynamics between teachers and students is always a tricky area of classroom management. It is necessary to establish relationships with students managing the student’s authority is an important part of making connections with the class. Too much and you are an authoritarian and too little and students start trying to get away with actions they should not do. Maintain the “right” amount of authority is an important skill to learn.
This dynamic gets even more complicated in project-based-learning like Youth Radio and in student centered writing workshops. It seems implied in many books on PBL and writing workshop that teachers should minimize their authority. However, on one hand the teacher can never disregard authority entirely due to the education system an institution as a whole that lend power to the teacher. A student will not forget entirely how much power a teacher has over them in a classroom.
Complimenting that critique of disavowing the teacher’s authority, which I first read in Lensmire’s, Powerful Writing, Responsible Teaching, is the notion in Drop that Knowledge, and also found in other texts, that teachers need to retain some authority in order to properly guide students. For Youth Radio they covered Simon’s editorial process on his reactionary letter. The editorial process is not fun as is pointed out, but it is necessary, so author’s do not become “stuck” in their point-of-view. The other anecdotes illustrate also point at a similar point but complicate it. Sometimes adults are more into with what audiences want but what the audience want can become the “safe” choice.
Going back to writing in a general ELA classroom, my own personal context, guiding students especially on creative writing projects is difficult. While teachers want to help students strengthen their writing, we do not want to say, “no your ideas are bad” or “your feelings are invalid.” To help navigate this tricky area I borrow from Kamler’s Relocating the Personal. In order to have students make connections to what they write students need to be shown how argumentation, social advocacy, informational pieces and more genres of writing are all inherently personal, and to some extent biased and influenced by power structures. In order to critique personal thoughts especially in students’ emotional pieces we need to walk that back some as Kamler does.
Kamler relocates the personal by focusing on post-structralism on showing students and helping student learn that writing is a representation of an idea or event and critiquing the writing artifact is not inherently a critique of the person. Kamler leads students to this understanding by having students rewrite the same piece for different purposes and from different perspectives while covering the theories of power in post-structuralism. A similar thing could be done in advanced ELA classrooms during a creative writing unit. It would be interesting to try to create a unit plan with a focus on the ideas found in these books to incorporate in a general ELA classroom and not only in writing and PBL workshops.