Teachers as readers and writers

Cremin, Teresa (2020). Teachers as readers and writers. In: Bowers, Virginia ed. Debates in Primary Education. Routledge, (In Press).

Abstract

Since being able to read and write are critical skills in the twenty first century, the teaching of English is always a matter of contention. Ways to teach phonics and grammar in particular are often hotly contested. Another longstanding debate, rather less to the forefront, is the notion that ‘teachers of writing must write’ and ‘teachers of reading must be readers’. This purportedly common-sense view - that to be effective, teachers of literacy must be skilled role models - has long been deliberated. The notion that teachers must be readers is arguably presumed, the notion that teachers must be writers has received more attention, but both are debated, since teachers are expected to be literate role models in the classroom. The power of role models in education has been recognized at least since 1966 when Bruner described this as a ‘day-to-day working model’ to support children’s learning.

The rationale underpinning such modelling is that through engaging reflexively as writers and readers within and beyond the classroom, teachers will be more authentic role models, with enriched understandings that may inform and shape their pedagogy, impacting upon their students’ achievements (Gennrich and Janks, 2013). Teachers’ attitudes to English and their assurance and self-esteem as readers and writers has been shown to influence their practice; research indicates that teachers’ conceptions of literacy, their literate identities and pedagogic practice, frame, shape and often limit students’ identities, both as writers (Ryan and Barton, 2014) and as readers (Hall, 2012). So, it is important to explore pre-service teachers’ literate identities, to support positive dispositions and to enhance their awareness of the consequence of being a reading/writing role model in the classroom.

In this chapter therefore, after exploring the relationship between literacy and identity, the focus turns to teachers’ literate identities and the debate around the positioning of teachers as writers and readers. Following this, a more applied consideration of the ways in which teachers can choose to position themselves as readers and writers is offered and attention paid to the possible consequences of such positioning on children’s literate identities. Through the chapter, a number of questions are addressed, including:

1. What does research indicate about the debate around teachers’ roles as readers and writers in the classroom?
2. What are the benefits and challenges of teachers becoming role models as readers and writers for children?
3. What range of ways exist for teachers to reflect upon their literacy lives and practices and shape their practice in order to support children’s development as literacy and language users?

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