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Understanding Literacy and Growth Throughout Adolescence

After reading, comprehending and critically analyzing Susan Hynds’ “On the Brink”, the struggles that adolescent students go through are brought to the teachers’ knowledge. Moreover, they as well recognize the real-life hassles and tussles encountered in a learner-centered classroom. This book tackles in great depths the social and cultural forces manipulating literacy development among the adolescents. For example, it intensely observes the consequential differences that are a function of race, sexual orientation, natural gifts and gender issues in classrooms caused by the dynamistic nature of the setting.

Failing to consider the above divergent issues may cause adverse effect on the students’ enthusiastic participation thus enlarging the existent social gap. It also travels around focusing on how to inculcate reading within the school setting, which is a pedagogical query, bearing in mind that the students are passionate in their own writing. After reading this book, the reader understands that the literacy conceptions, based on how the teachers comprehend the theories of cognitive development were deficient in unfolding what happens in reality as adolescents learn with the aim of making sense in literature.

It further expounds on the differences arising in students’ capabilities to identify characters in literature which is closely linked with the social learning process. One gets to learn that in order to successfully help the adolescents understand literature; he/she should engage the youngsters in various social interactions which enhance their literacy development both within and without classroom. The acts of Kianna, Lius and Jason, who were all seventh-graders, challenge the reader to realize that students acknowledge teachers who accept students’ resistance as a challenge rather than a personal disrespect (Hynds, 1997).

“On the Blink” also highlights to the reader that students are “under construction”. They have to undergo emotional, social and academic growth and as a result, they ought to be supported for them to actualize their hidden literate behaviors in the foreseeable future. Towards the end of the book, in the ninth chapter, use of smaller groups proves to be the remedy for classroom disruptions based on race, gender, sociopolitical issues and sexual orientation. Thus, this called for the teachers and teacher educators to adapt these groups so as to ensure that the classrooms remain orderly.

The teachers should also be empowered to own critical theory that is beneficial to themselves and their students; incorporating love, care, expertise and trustworthy in the classroom setup. They should also understand that their conscientiousness surpasses putting materials and opportunities and letting the students put them into reality. They ought to give a hand to the students for the latter to be familiar with and brazen them out on the diverse forms of prejudice and autocracy.

Furthermore, they have to come to the knowledge that one who is in power can not serve others unless he/she has love. In bringing to light what was already there, Susan highlights the dominance of European Americans in most schools, including her school, Logan Middle School (LMS), with lesser African American students’ percentages and small representations of Latina learners. She draws attention to the presence of constructivist theoretical practices among learning institutions, though many educators had not understood the reasons as to why they never emerged as victors in classroom.

The basis of this approach was enculturation, apprenticeship and other expert-novice rapport forms thus put at bay crucial issues such as resistance and right of marginalized learners to reject being hard-pressed to adopt a culture that exterminated their own. This enculturation had also deprived teachers off their responsibility of bringing bigger political concerns that affected the general public in a classroom setting. Constructivism simply transformed the students’ language arts and not the schooling of the marginalized children.

Despite the existence of careful classroom arrangements and strategies, sociopolitical forces undermined the efforts of achieving the intended purpose. There was democracy in the classroom and students had grouped themselves according to their gender and races. Moreover, they had been cocooned in these writing groups or literature circles in which they had become “official members” and this therefore had limited their classroom literacy participation (Hynds, 1997). The existent curriculum imposed collaborative activities for the adolescents but this never tackled their social prerequisites and codes.

Students and teachers from the minority groups were faced with realities and unique needs during this period of history. The author focuses on the introduction of more activist, which is a critical constructivist approach, with minimal or no exclusion of difficulties faced by literature teachers in their devoted attempt to simplify their students’ convoluted social, political and cultural arenas. The teacher educators also ensured that the aforementioned approach is valuable in challenging classroom practices; proscribe self-ruled goals and habits that do not take into account narrow-mindedness.

In addition, they had to put into practice instructional strategies such as mutual grouping and conduct workshops for other teachers. These workshops were aimed at increasing the choice numbers that the students earlier have and allowing separate rooms for their secondary participation as compared to the official literature circle membership. Moreover, they broadened the responses in reading (Hynds, 1997). However, they had to take into consideration the obvious unanticipated problems associated with the implementation of the above strategy and gauge their ability to bear the weight.

The teachers and teacher educators ought to realize what is deep in the students’ minds and hearts, which Susan refers to as the students’ “hidden literature lives”. They also ought to resolve the power imbalances that have for a lengthy period kept the learners unquestioning and servile since the students need a more concrete and soothing alternative than this power. Although the teachers and teacher educators advocate new methods, such as sharing of personal reactions and writing in classroom, they also have to be aware that the certainty about and gusto for these methods can affect their perception of the abilities of the students.

Besides, some of the methods hardly gave equally personal and academic rewarding for all the writing groups. The literacy levels of the students can be highly credited. This is because, through their stories, they sent a caution to the readers warning them to stop assuming that they- the students- will understand the rationale and guidelines of many constructivist policies. Argumentatively, the students’ maturity and thoughtful demonstrations cover the differences between their undeveloped conceptual abilities and the teachers’ more experienced conception.

Moreover, characters like Angel, where not only socially competent but also had competence academically which enabled her play different roles thus succeed in her academics. Likewise was Samantha. Though many were uninvolved in classroom literacy in the beginning, they later build interest and end up being central participants through transformations as they learn to articulate the veracity through various literacy ways. These include poetry, dramatic performances, play writing and stories. References Hynds, S. (1997). On the Brink: Negotiating Literature and Life with Adolescents. New York: IRA and Teachers College Press.

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