Hi there tout la gang,

We don't have much to say about research in practice at the Café right now

but we are talking policy and practice over here now: Literacy Enquirers.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

jostling discourses

The Panel Discussion at RaPAL was about the professionalization of literacy teachers, facilitators, instructors or, as they are known here, tutors.

The first thing we were asked to was to generate a list of qualifications we felt necessary to be a literacy teacher. The list was mostly things such as compassion, empathy, flexibility, openness, collegiality, the ability to think on one's feet, the ability to work from where people are, the ability to adapt constantly and so on. The panel seemed pretty surprised that our list was made up of almost exclusively what they called "soft skills" or personal qualities rather than the "hard skills" such as subject matter knowledge. The practitioners objected to the use of the term soft skills because they felt it demeaned what they see as vital to the work. I found it interesting that the list we came up reflects what literacy students say they value in literacy teachers -- they rarely mention subject matter knowledge. We were speaking the language of literacy and our literacy wisdom was on parade.

The rest of the conversation included some of these points:

  • professionalization gives practitioners a career path with options and mobility
  • a professionalized workforce will garner more respect from policy-makers and the public allowing the field to have a stronger, more effective advocacy voice
  • the terms and approaches to achieve this voice means we are using the master's tools to dismantle the master's house and where does that leave us
  • the reason practitioners are not respected is not because we are not professionalized (certified, accredited) but because the people we work with are not respected, because we are a female dominated field
  • there is a big difference between professionalization and professionalism

The we went to a dinner where the Lord Mayor greeted us and a senator danced with a practitioner.

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