Authors and Amazing Tales: In Awe of Lawrence Hill

During the school year my night table fills with novels; one beautiful literary piece after the other, the books pile up. The vision is to retreat to my room early enough to read these marvellous texts at an enjoyable pace in order to get to the next… yet my  time during the academic term does not allow me the pleasure.  With the coming of summer and the end of an academic term I find some space where I can begin to read the books I attempted to read throughout the year.  This year, I begin with Lawrence Hill.  Most are familiar with Lawrence Hill, a Canadian writer whose most popular texts include: Blood: The Stuff of Life  and The Book of Negroes.

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Blood: The stuff of life was turned into a lecture series. You can listen to excerpts of the Massey Lecture series here:

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/the-2013-cbc-massey-lectures-blood-the-stuff-of-life-1.2913671

Two incredible literary works that move me to think about humanity… and inhumanity. The Book of Negroes was turned into a  television mini series. Based on historical fiction The Book of Negroes is the story of young African girl, her voice, her journey in the 1700s from Mali, Africa to South Carolina, New York, Cape Breton, and London. How impactful a process to explore the novel — to try to make sense of history and our present — to think about narratives and then consider the media and digital implications for developing such an intense story into a visual series.  I think of how high school teachers could use this novel to explore so many issues and then to look at the decisions one makes when transforming such a sensitive story into film.

As I read Hill’s novels I cannot help but consider how  the narratives in these literary texts can be used to improve my own practice in teacher education. I ask myself: Can they inspire the reader to more deeply understand the intensity of the relational acts involved in teaching in classrooms?  Why do certain groups of children have a greater likelihood of failing at school? How do our systems shut people out without some of us ever realizing it? What kinds (if any) of understandings should teachers have about the histories of our communities before ever stepping into classrooms? How in teacher education can we support a deep understanding of children’s learning?

There is just so much to know while in pre-service and so much to teach in teacher education. What is most important? Why? When I think about the construction of teacher education programs I am now thinking less in terms of required courses and more in terms of broad understandings and the connections across disciplines and understandings. For example, as we teach about child and adolescent development (psychology) we must thing about language and literacy development (content) inclusive of social context (equity and foundations).  After all, when we enter classrooms we know that our work as teachers is dynamic, complex, forever evolving and completely relational.

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