Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Motho Ke Motho Ka Batho Ba Bangwe #LRA16

I'm channeling Beauty Makinta on this one, as she is the one who uttered the words when she moved into my house during the summer of 2013. She was visiting from Pretoria, South Africa, and when she learned of my Ubuntu Philosophy, those words came out of her mouth. I've held onto them in my writer's notebook ever since, and when CWP-Fairfield created Ubuntu Academy, I decided to draw on Beauty's wisdom by restating, "Motho ke moth ka batho ba bangwe."

I definitely can be who I am, because of who we are together.

I fly out this morning for Nashville, Tennessee, to join colleagues at the Literacy Research Association. I didn't attend last year and used the money I saved to fund the 3rd year of Ubuntu Academy, CWP-Fairfield's young adult literacy lab for refugee and immigrant youth. For the last three years I've been collecting data on the Invitational Leadership Institute at Fairfield University in relation to teacher interaction with the young people who attend - in three years, almost 400 young people have attended our summer programs and I'm extremely proud of our literacy lab for immigrant and refugee youth. Working with Bridgeport Public Schools and International Institute of Connecticut, we've been abel to reach 68 young people from all over the world, just arriving to the United States. The program relies 100% on donations (and they have come from Deans, my willingness to donate money for the professional development I do in schools, and -- last year -- because I chose not to attend as many literacy conferences). This year, however, I am heading back to LRA to share what I've learned from our program.

As I've pieced this work together, I am rather impressed by the volume of data that was collected over the last three years: 1,400 pages of observation, interviews, published writing, and artifacts from the young people in all our literacy labs, and the 37 teachers who have participated in our National Writing Project program. Of note, we are one of only a few in the state that deliberately are mixing up the communities: CT is well known for having some of the most extreme income disparities in the nation and, as part of the region, zip code apartheid is the norm. With that said, our summer programs for teachers and young people represent the super diversity that Stephen Vertrovec, the sociologist, has been writing about in Europe for two decades.

Can you say Brown School? Hmmm. Seems I'm not satisfied unless I'm in a community of extreme diversity.

There are times I wish I could put my research hat on more, but the teaching and community service hat has me putting scholarship in action more than words (and yes, I know I'm in Rome and need to do as the Romans do). So, that's what I've been working on for Nashville....

...turning the corner from the knowledge gained with 8 African-Born Relocated Male Youth, and studying a summer program where immigrant and refugee youth have become central to teacher conversations about teaching writing.

It is Ubuntu, and Beauty said it best: Motho Ke Motho ka Batho Ba Bangwe. Here's to Opryland.

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