Space for Learning

family literacy

We had company tonight - a little one who couldn't be enticed or ordered away. She ended up copying words from PRACE book titles while we read and wrote.

I've been too long a family literacy worker not to see the value in this, but it was a mixed blessing.

For one thing, it meant there was someone at the table who really wanted to be the center of attention, and for once it wasn't me.

But even when there wasn't a commotion going on, just the child's presence meant that a part of the adult's attention was focused away from her own literacy learning.

Coming to this woman's home means freeing her from the need - sometimes unmeetable - to arrange childcare for her children. It means she gets to have supper before her evening learning begins (something travel time and her work would not otherwise allow). It also, up until now, has meant there was a time and place in her home she could claim as her own, to use for her own learning. When the kitchen table became the classroom, the children were ushered out. My presence, the stranger in the house, added authority to her claim. (Part of what happened tonight happened because I am becoming more familiar, less scary.)

This claiming of time and place happens in my classes as well. Once in a while, someone joins us who works independently, effectively, rarely asking for my help. What they are getting out of class is a quiet, safe space to learn in, and social permission to say, "Don't call me when I'm in class" or "You need to pick up the kids because I'll be in school." I need to remember that - that what I sometimes offer is space and time - because I'm often conflicted when people don't call on me for more traditional help. I look at someone working away by themselves, and think of two or three others on the waiting list (and on my mind) who I know need someone sitting near to guide them, and I feel a bit... uncertain.

I shouldn't be.

Learning spaces are still too rare - I suppose that's why we have waiting lists - and providing them is also the work of responsive literacy facilitators.

For more on learning spaces, take a peek at a nice place to learn, and and at the places to learn discussion we had a while back in blogging about working in adult literacy.

family literacy

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