My ever-evolving relationship with literacy

I have to publish something on YouTube?

So this was me after reading that I had to create a YouTube video. I think it’s interesting after all the discussions we have had in ENGL 629 about multi-modalities, I still hate the sound of my own voice on an audio or video recording.

The experience was very worthwhile though, especially working with the closed-captions feature… definitely worth the cringe-worthy reaction to my own voice.

My Relationship with Reading

Transcript of Literacy Narrative

So my relationship with literacy, like most relationships in life, has had its ups and downs, not that I’ve ever truly been on bad terms with literacy, but there have been times that I’ve put reading and writing to the backburner and haven’t been the best “partner” so to speak. First of all, most of this narrative is going be about written text since that has primarily been my experience with media through most of my life. It’s not until recently that I really started thinking about other texts as being media as well and having to do with literacy. My first experiences with reading… they were very positive ones, including reading with my grandmother. So, I adored her, she adored me. I was the only granddaughter, and she had two boys, and we used to read books together all the time. There was one book in particular… I don’t even remember the title of the book, but it was about animals from around the world, and it would describe these animals and the sounds that they would make during the day, and then you’d flip the page, and it would have the animals at night and the sounds that they made. It had beautiful, colorful pictures, and I just loved that text. It’s unfortunate that I have not been able to find it as an adult, but I just loved turning the pages and anticipating what was going to happen next. And truly that’s what I was doing… was anticipating because at that time I actually couldn’t read, but I had memorized every single line. And as my grandmother would turn the page, I would “read” to her what was coming up next. And so, just my first memories of reading were very positive ones. Then after that, my next experiences were also very positive. In kindergarten, they used to sneak a group of us out during naptime (and I hated naptime) to go read in another room.  We kind of whispered these lines of these books together, and so it was just a very positive memory. I felt important.  I felt special, being able to do this, and so I had this really great relationship with reading and books. That relationship really continued through high school and college. I felt that reading allowed me the opportunity to connect to the characters in a special way and to connect to the writers as well. I could almost always find some sort of connection and relate it to myself in just about everything I read, and reading came very easily to me. I could tell that it came easier to me than some of my peers, who sort of struggled with this. But for me, it was comfortable and I felt very lucky that this sort of privileged form of media was something that I didn’t have to work too hard for. Anyway, it has continued throughout high school and college, and it really wasn’t until I was out of my undergraduate college that my relationship with reading changed. And basically, sort of, life took over, adulting took over, and I found less and less time to read. And so it was always kind of that last thing on my priority list, and it [reading] was put to the backburner, and I just didn’t do it very often. And then, I started finding that when I did [read], I didn’t have the patience for reading that I had had before. I would read a headline, I might get through one or two paragraphs, and then just kind of my interest would sort of die off. So I sort of felt guilty about this, and I just I don’t know… I always had some reason not to read, and truthfully it hasn’t been until I made a career switch and decided to start teaching that I’ve kind of gotten back into reading on a more regular basis. Reading and I had been on a “break,” and once I became a teacher, I had to sort of “reconcile” with reading. It was hard. I had lost my stamina, and I still found that I was reading just enough to get through the requirements. Rereading a text that I was going to be reading with my students, something of that nature. Reading a lot of their writing… that kind of thing, but I also recognized that to be a good teacher, you have to model, and you have to do those things that you want your students to be able to do. So reading and

I have kind of “made up” in a lot of ways, but I still find that I don’t have that same special relationship that I did when I was little. Um, I still try to read for pleasure, although it usually ends up just being about seven minutes before I am fast asleep in bed at night where I pick up a book just for pleasure, but unfortunately, it doesn’t last too terribly long. So, anyway, in my classes, I found that I’m doing more reading than I had been for a few years, and the amazing thing is that in my classroom, that I am really both teacher and student. So the other day, we were reading “Turkeys in the Kitchen” by Dave Barry, and my students were having a rather spirited discussion about gender roles, and by the end of class, they were presenting me with different texts they were showing me… that infamous Gillette commercial about hyper-masculinity and they were showing me Nike commercials that had to do with gender roles, and so they were introducing me to newer medias that sort of went along the same theme. So my relationship with reading has come to a new chapter, so to speak… one of multi-literacies and new media. And though I sort of feel like I’m “cheating” on my written texts, sometimes, I’m keeping an open mind to new experiences.

Opening my mind to new texts

“And given all of these converging factors, teachers can’t help but notice new media texts—and worry about how or if such texts should be assuming a more prominent place in composition classrooms” (Selfe 44).

If I am honest with myself, the idea from the above quote is the very reason that I chose to take this Seminar in New Media Studies. As an English teacher, opening up my mind (and my classroom) to new media has been a bit of a struggle. We often find ourselves wondering if we are losing something by allowing media (other than traditional written texts like novels, plays, and poetry) into our curriculum.

The old school way of looking at this is to think that we are somehow “dumbing it down” when we allow for new media to find a place in the classroom. However, this mindset is antiquated and, quite frankly, dangerous. Not only from the standpoint of disengaging our students, but also in doing them a disservice by not preparing them for a world outside of academia.

“Literacies accumulate rapidly when a culture is undergoing a particularly dramatic or radical transition. And during such periods of rapid change, individuals are often expected to learn, value, and practice both past and present forms of literacy simultaneously and in different spheres of their lives” (Selfe 50).

As Selfe argues in the quote above, we live in a world in which just focusing on traditional written texts is not going to be enough. By ignoring new media forms, we are ignoring “present forms of literacy” and our students will ultimately pay the price. I think about the incident in class that I referenced in my literacy narrative about a classroom discussion on gender roles I had with my AP students a few weeks ago.

We were reading and discussing a traditional text (Dave Barry’s “Turkeys in the Kitchen”) when students starting popping out of their seats, phones in hand. “Look, Mrs. Hudak! This is the Gillette commercial I was talking about.” My initial reaction on the inside was, “Oh no! I’m losing them…. they’re on their phones.” But then I realized I had NOT lost them. They were making connections to media that was current and relevant to them. The examples they showed me of online videos had just as much literary merit and connection to the topics we were discussing. In some ways, they were even more powerful because these new media included multi-modalities: images, sound, and vocal language.

This became on of those times when I had to push back my bias towards written text and allow my students to lead the way. They were finding connections that I hadn’t… and they were stepping into the role of teacher. Bravo, students!

Works Cited

Literacy Narrative. Dir. Anne Hudak. YouTube. 31 Mar. 2019. 06 Apr. 2019 <https://youtu.be/dV7gzmdgTkA&gt;.

Perkins, Hilary. Disgusted Cat. 2 Feb. 2009. Flickr. 6 Apr. 2019 <https://www.flickr.com/photos/cowbite/3248529556&gt;.

Selfe, Cynthia. “Students Who Teach Us: A Case Study of a New Media Text Designer.” Writing New Media Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition. Logan: Utah State UP, 2004. 43-66.

Published by amhudak

a life-long learner trying something new

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1 Comment

  1. Would you believe that at a certain time a pencil or paper was a threatening technology? We forget because its such a part of our literacy habits now. I love that you were able to recognize how your students connection was an extension of the lesson and not challenging you. That’s huge!

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