Guest Author: Stacy-Ann Pothier, Teacher, Elbow Valley Elementary – Lately I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking about verbal texture and presence. As
a French Immersion teacher, my professional life is centered on language acquisition and how it relates across the curriculum. “What is the Dialogical Method of Teaching” by Paulo Freire and Ira Shor made an immediate connection for me in the power of language and dialogue in my teaching. This article had many aspects that struck close to home for me. I most related to the discussion between Freire and Shor about verbal texture. “Human voices speak in many modes: questions, statements, generalizations, specifics, images, comedy, pathos, sarcasm, mimicry, sentimentality, etc. How much of this texture appears in any course? When does comedy appear? Where is deep feeling?”
I asked myself whether or not I have been taking the time to create this texture in my class? Verbal texture takes all that I strive to achieve in my teaching and wraps it up into a neat package. It is so relevant to my teaching and to the learning in my classroom that I smile just thinking about it, an affirmation of how I believe students should have power in their own learning. When I give up power by allowing verbal texture, I actually gain power in the flow and connections of theory and practice. Do my students understand that this texture would be smooth without their contribution to the knobby quality of the hubbub of the classroom and creation of the texture? Questions, chats, discussion, laughter, whispers, responses, sharing, singing, joking, debates, and more! I am seeing learning in my classroom differently, and as such, am encouraging the weaving of verbal texture.
This was reinforced when I read Anne Hill’s A Reconciliation of Theory and Practice (2006). I appreciated her perspective on change and how to incorporate this into daily practice. Her emphasis on seeing as a teacher, indwelling (or curiosity in the classroom, listening to children, being immersed in the language of schools, and having a presence with children), points out the importance of relationships within the classroom. The teacher needs to use those relationships to understand the students and to build a learning environment that is meaningful and authentic for all the participants. The concept of verbal texture marches hand in hand with her idea of presence. I appreciate these two trains of thought in that they give me the power to understand the interconnectedness that is present in all that I do.
Theory does relate to my practice, in how I apply it to my situation and to the situation of my students. My understandings of who my students are, augmented by the verbal texture in my classroom, allows me to judge how and when I can most effectively implement theory to best support my practice and make the biggest impact for the learners. I am still smiling each day at the thought of verbal texture in my classroom. My students have the power to express themselves, to ask questions, to give their opinions, to laugh, and to sing. AND I see this as a great gift. How lucky I am to be present in my classroom.