Roberto Germán [00:00:01]:
Welcome to our classroom. In this space, we talk about education, which is inclusive of but not limited to what happens in schools. Education is taking place whenever and wherever we are willing to learn. I am your host, Rovelto Herman, and our classroom is official.
Roberto Germán [00:00:28]:
Welcome back to our classroom. Today I am joined by Shauna Coppola. Did I say that right?
Shawna Coppola [00:00:36]:
It's Coppola, but Coppola, that's what people usually say.
Roberto Germán [00:00:40]:
Long o. Long o. All right. The Coppola gives me more of a forget about it vibe, but it's all good. It's all good. Coppola. Long o. And Sean is an expert in child and adolescent literacy, including practices that support a diverse range of writing and writers.
Roberto Germán [00:01:02]:
Been an educator for over two decades. Looking young, looking young, though.
Shawna Coppola [00:01:09]:
Roberto Germán [00:01:10]:
Has worked as a middle school language arts teacher, children's librarian, K six literacy specialist and coach. Just has done a variety of things. And so we appreciate the expertise that Shauna is bringing. She's led courses and workshops for K twelve educators at the University of New Hampshire's literacy institutes, as well as their professional development and training program, and has spoken at a variety of local, regional, and national conferences. And John is the author of Literacy for all, a framework for anti oppressive teaching, among other books. But this is the one that is fresh off the printers. Well, not quite yet, but you can preorder, you can preorder folks, so go.
Roberto Germán [00:02:06]:
Ahead and do that right now.
Roberto Germán [00:02:08]:
Preorder literacy for all, a framework for anti oppressive teaching. And so we're going to be talking about literacy for all. Shawna, thank you for being here.
Shawna Coppola [00:02:19]:
Thank you so much for having me. It's such a pleasure and to be a part of all of the guests that you've had so far. It's just really humbling. So thank you.
Roberto Germán [00:02:28]:
Well, I noticed in your book there are a number of people that I've interviewed that have influenced your work or that you've cited. And so I was making all types of connections like, oh, wait a second, she mentioned gala Luz Enko Munidad and of course, Lorena, my wife, my partner in this work, and the rest of the folks from disrupt tax. So all these wonderful people that you mentioned, many that have been on the platform. So that was exciting for me. But I want to go ahead and jump in.
Shawna Coppola [00:03:01]:
Roberto Germán [00:03:01]:
In chapter one of your book, literacy for all, you expressed that one of the most important underlying issues is how we define literacy and what it means to be literate. What is your working definition that you're using for this book and for your work in general.
Shawna Coppola [00:03:25]:
Yeah, that's such a good question, and I think it's one of the most important questions we should be asking whenever we're talking about literacy. What are our definitions? Are we working from the same definitions? And so for me, throughout my work, whether it's in the classroom or it's doing little writing projects or whatever, my view of literacy is a really expansive view. So I think about really expansive ways to think about what it means to have a text in front of you. So, for example, I am not always thinking that a text has to be alphabetic or written in nature, that it can be a video text, it can be an oral text or audio text. It can be multimodal. So there's that piece, and then there's also the piece where I'm working with a theory that there's, like, two ways to look at literacy. And this I learned from Brian street, who's a longtime literacy scholar. One of those views that people take around literacy is called an autonomous view of literacy.
Shawna Coppola [00:04:34]:
And that view, people who take on that view really consider literacy to be, say, apolitical or neutral or something that's really objective. They locate literacy within individuals, and they see literacy as sort of more of a series of skills. Then there's my view, which is the ideological view of literacy that really recognizes and situates literacy in social and cultural practices and community practices as well. And it's not so much a set of skills as it is a set of practices that are constantly evolving and changing. I'm on that side of this theory, ideological view, and within that theory, I think of text as something that's really broad.
Roberto Germán [00:05:29]:
Yeah, I like the fact that you're thinking about it as expansive, because the way that we in general and definitely our youth are engaging with literacy is just wide ranging. Right. Their world is so different than the one that we came up with, and so we have to be able to adapt with that. And the reason I asked this question is because I think it's important to establish some common language. Sometimes folks, they're talking about a topic and they think they're talking about the same thing, but they're not necessarily talking about the same thing, and they don't have an understanding.
Shawna Coppola [00:06:14]:
Right. And so I always try to start with that when I'm working with teachers. I start with that when I'm working with students. And it takes a while for people to kind of, I think especially with that expansive view of what text is can be a little bit difficult for folks who aren't used to thinking in that way, but once you see it, you can't unsee it. It's just something that you think about all the time and you're like, okay, that's the text. That's the text. And I learned this from my students. I took on this view.
Shawna Coppola [00:06:47]:
I was probably more in the other camp when I first started teaching because that's how I was socialized to think about literacy and socialized to think about text. But my students, working with just students across the board over 25 years who are just so represent so many different ways of engaging with literacy, have really taught me to expand that. So I have to say thank you to them for that.
Roberto Germán [00:07:14]:
What is so much that we could learn from our students if we're just willing to listen and receive their feedback and then ultimately apply it? So kudos to you for doing so. What is anti oppressive literacy education framework? Because you mentioned this in your book, I think people are going to need you to explain what that is and what is an example of the often unintended but nevertheless real harm that can result from failing to use an anti oppressive education framework to enact literacy practices, policies and curriculum.
Shawna Coppola [00:07:55]:
Yeah, so such a big question.
Roberto Germán [00:07:59]:
Direct quote from your book.
Shawna Coppola [00:08:01]:
I'll break it down. I know. I'll break it down. I know. And one of the things that I do as a writer is I tend to write in really long sentences, and that's something I'm learning to try to pull back from. So the anti oppressive literacy framework that I developed based on my years, not only my years of teaching and working with different, because I've worked with babies and I've worked with graduate students, some as old as I think my oldest student one summer was in her 80s. This framework is just a way to, it's made up of five principles, and the principles are there to help us use it as a tool to help educators decenter, dominant ways of thinking about literacy in so many educational spaces, we really center white, mainstream ways of language, of using language, and of practicing literacy. And I see it as not a panacea for all of the issues that we have in school spaces, but it's just one tool to use toward that dismantling of those dominant ideologies that have always been centered in school spaces in the United States and continue to be centered and then, as far as know, often unintended but real harm that can result for not using a framework like this.
Shawna Coppola [00:09:39]:
There's so many examples. I'm like, where do I start?
Roberto Germán [00:09:43]:
But that could be a podcast episode in itself, right?
Shawna Coppola [00:09:48]:
I could just have a whole 800 page Tome of all of those. But I think one really contemporary example that's just on fire all over the place is when we think about the dominant discourse around the science of reading. And I know this is that hot button issue with a lot of folks. So just hear me out.
Roberto Germán [00:10:09]:
We're listening. We're listening.
Shawna Coppola [00:10:11]:
Okay, so the dominant discourse, and by that, I mean the way that we talk about science of reading in the media, not necessarily if we think about the comprehensive sciences of reading, but the dominant discourse around science of reading, really what I've noticed is it sort of takes on that social justice language and that equity language. It's sort of using that to further the cause of these policies and practices that are going to potentially, from the view of the people who are really big advocates of this discourse, are going to finally provide some sort of equity, quote unquote, in schools around literacy. But what it really does, that dominant discourse, is it really perpetuates autonomous views of literacy, seeing literacy as something that's individualized. It's in the head or in the brain. It's disconnected from social, cultural, and community practices. And it really diminishes the scholarship of a wider representation of researchers and scholars in literacy. And it really diminishes the kinds of literacy practices that we see, for example, with emergent bilingual learners or multilingual learners or even deaf learners whose first language is ASL. It's very centered around white mainstream notions of science and research and the subjects.
Shawna Coppola [00:11:54]:
When you look at the most often cited research or studies related to the so called science of reading, we see that even in the researchers. And who is cited most often? And so for me, it's just one way of many ways that literacy is often decontextualized from those social and cultural practices and identities that we have. So even though they appropriate this social justice language in this discourse, it's really doing in practice. There's a big potential for it to do the opposite, which is to perpetuate inequities through these kind of urgent policies that are being put in place in a way that is going to essentially, like I said, just perpetuate this idea of dominant ideologies around language and literacy, and especially white mainstream English.
Roberto Germán [00:12:56]:
That's real. And there's much to consider and unpack there when we're thinking about, you mentioned the policies, right? And it's pushing for policies and the urgency behind that. So you have to consider, well, who's developing the policies? Whose voices are included? Whose voices are excluded? Who does it impact the most? And so what you're bringing up is definitely critical for us to not only consider but continue to push and have the conversation and really understand how this impacts us and what are some things that we need to be doing in order to better serve our students.
Shawna Coppola [00:13:36]:
Yeah. And just as a more discreet example that I think isn't talked about very often is, I'm a big proponent of phonics. I think that is such an important. We have to teach kids to match letter and sound relationships. And part of the dominant Sor dress course not only talks about comprehension, but also phonics. And that's what we're really seeing embedded in a lot of these programs is this sort of blanket understanding of phonics that seems to be at a universal level. Like, there's no really critical discourse around phonics because people don't see it as political. But even phonics, even letter sound relationships, are socially and culturally.
Shawna Coppola [00:14:25]:
So, for example, if we think about learners whose primary language is what Dr. April Baker Ball calls black English and we think about some of the features of black English or what some people call african american vernacular English, we see things like the oral deletion of a second consonant cluster in a word like cold or a word like left. That is just a common feature in a lot of folks who speak black English is that deletion. But how many us educators, 80% of whom are white, how many of them would listen to a child pronounce a word like that, make that deletion, and call it wrong, or see it as a deficit? And in a lot of screenings like, the Dibbles is a really popular screener for phonics and other things, but they really look at phonics. If you look at the teacher edition or the scoring guide for that, there are three lines that talk about that. They actually say that Dibbles measures early literacy skills in English. Therefore, students should use the english pronunciation of words. So implied in that is what they consider to be the english pronunciation of words.
Shawna Coppola [00:16:01]:
What they really mean is the white, mainstream english pronunciation of words. And so it's things like that that make literacy political. It's really a political endeavor.
Roberto Germán [00:16:15]:
Yeah. A lot of people don't want to hear that. There seems to be many folks who want to isolate the politics involved. In this case. We're talking about literacy, and phonics want to isolate that from its reality. Right. And we have to contend. We have to contend with it all in an authentic way.
Roberto Germán [00:16:43]:
So appreciate you naming that. I want to bring us to chapter four of your book, which is titled all human beings engage in literacy and language practices that are both valid and valuable. At the end of the chapter, you briefly touch upon how the content applies to those that are teaching in predominantly white spaces. How so? I think that's a question that comes up often. I know it's stuff that I've heard and trainings that I've done. And you obviously have heard that because you get into that in your book.
Shawna Coppola [00:17:27]:
Roberto Germán [00:17:30]:
How does this apply?
Shawna Coppola [00:17:33]:
So a couple of different things around this. So one is, when I wrote that, I was really nervous that people were going to take that in a way that wasn't intended. And so I'm grateful for you asking this question, because one of the things that I hear when I speak in different places, and I work with teachers in different places across the country and outside of the country, is if they're teaching in a predominantly white, native English speaking school environment, I will often hear things like, well, we don't have those problems, or we don't have those kids here. So why are we talking about, like, something like what I just talked about in terms of phonics being a political concept? But the fact remains that the United States is one of the most linguistically diverse countries on earth. I think we have somewhere between, gosh, 254 something different languages spoken in the United States alone. The number of people who speak a language other than English tripled in the past several years, in recent decades, anyway, according to the Census Bureau. And so for me, if we don't want to continue to perpetuate this idea that white mainstream English is. English is the English is the way of engaging with literacy, using different practices that are common in white mainstream spaces, middle to upper class sort of spaces, then we need to do this work, no matter who our population is.
Shawna Coppola [00:19:23]:
We need to talk about literacy and language as being a social and cultural practice. We need to bring in bilingual texts regardless of whether our students are bilingual or emergent bilingual. So, for example, making use of bilingual texts where there's so many great picture books, where they are written in Kree and in English, there's your beautiful book, fluing tears, that has English and Spanish. We need to use those texts, those bilingual texts, and bring those in regardless of who our students are and what languages they speak, because there's still this conception that the United States has a national language, that it's English, that it's white mainstream English. And that's not the case. It's never been the case. And I hear that I teach undergrads now, and I hear that know we're just doing our students such a disservice by perpetuating these kind of oppressive ideas around whose languages and literacy practices count or are valued most. And so we just have to do this work regardless of who the students that we're working with is my view.
Roberto Germán [00:20:45]:
Thanks for sharing. Thanks for sharing. In connection to Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan's work through street data, shout out to them, had them on the platform. Also, you state that when educators rely heavily on satellite measures of learning, like high stakes standardized tests, we place unfair and inequitable constraints on what students can demonstrate they know and are able to do. Can you elaborate on that?
Shawna Coppola [00:21:25]:
Happy to. And I've seen this in my own practice, and I've of course, learned so much from Shane and Jamila, so I'm just really grateful for their work. So how they conceive of satellite data is that kind of really far away from the student? It's really kind of a bird's eye view of bigger trends around literacy and language use in schools especially. But it can be outside of school as well. And the story that we get from those kinds of data collection tools.
Roberto Germán [00:22:09]:
Shawna Coppola [00:22:09]:
Tell us one kind of story, but the closer we get to the student. So when we incorporate tools that are closer to the student, like map data that they call map data, which are things like curriculum based measures and rubrics and common assessments that are created through the district or the school, we get a better picture. But we still aren't getting the humanizing picture that we are getting from using tools that give us good street data. So things like observation, interviewing and conferring, looking really closely at student work, when we don't take into account those tools that give us that closer picture, closer to the student, when we rely so much on that satellite data, we're seeing stories that are incomplete about students and what they can do. And so just as an example, I worked with a group of teachers in a school last year. It was a k to eight school, and one of the last things we did as a group, we were a cohort that met every month for the full school year, and I asked them to consider the stories that satellite data, satellite measures of data, tell about certain students. So I asked them to pick one or two students, and then I asked them to really look at, to really focus on collecting street data. So really observing, taking photographs closely, looking at the student work, interviewing the students, following the students.
Shawna Coppola [00:23:56]:
And I asked them to reflect on what stories that data told about each student. And whether they matched the satellite stories. What ways were they similar, and what ways were they different? And almost across the board, they did not match up. And so, for example, a satellite measure might give us good information about a student that says that they might fit the profile of dyslexia, for example, that they have a language disability, a language based disability. Without the street data, we don't know. And I'm thinking of a particular student. We don't know, for example, that this student is a gifted storyteller. We don't know that this student has an incredible amount of talent creating multimodal text.
Shawna Coppola [00:24:51]:
We don't know the enormous sense of humor the student has. So we're getting an incomplete picture when we use only satellite and map measures of data collection or measures of. And Shane and Jamila caution that when they talk about different levels of data, that it's not just about the stories, but those stories are a good starting place for educators, I think, to really think about what are the practices that my students engage in, especially in terms of literacy, and how can I look at them through an asset based lens? What stories do they tell, the different levels of data to tell, and do they match up? Because I think when we don't do that, then we are placing really unfair constraints and inequitable constraints on what it means to engage in literacy and language practices.
Roberto Germán [00:25:51]:
Yeah. I think it's always something that's bothered me because there's so many ways for us to assess what students know. And even thinking about my own experience as a learner, I was never a good test taker, and yet I was very capable, especially if you gave me an opportunity to write. Yeah, but not just writing, but give me an opportunity to write in the ways that I enjoy writing, because that's going to inspire me to demonstrate more. I'm going to push a little bit further because I'm engaging in something that I enjoy.
Shawna Coppola [00:26:37]:
Yeah. And those ways of engaging in literacy are often not the ones that are measured on satellite measures of data. So we really don't see a lot of that in the group that I'm teaching right now. They are in my class because they did not, quote unquote, qualify for first year composition through satellite measures of data collection. But the brilliance that I am seeing them, that they are trusting me enough to put on paper or on screen or in class verbally, it's incredible. And I don't ever walk away from a class thinking, why are they here? Why are they in my class? Why did they not qualify? And of course, I know the reason, but that's how it can become really inequitable and really turn people off to lots of literacy and language practices that can bring them such joy.
Roberto Germán [00:27:41]:
True. Can you provide a brief summary of the ways in which literacy and identity are inextricably linked? Chapter three.
Shawna Coppola [00:27:55]:
Yes. Again, it's like, where do I start? So, just as a personal example, and I talk about this in the book, I was identified really early on as a reader and writer, right? I was a gifted reader and writer. And so because of that early identification, and, mind you, this was in kindergarten, so it's not like they had a lot of student work or time with me to figure this out. They were looking at scores on tests that I took, and what happened was I was placed in a program that I hated. I hated being away from my classmates. I hated missing out on what they were learning. I hated the work I had to do in this group. But because I was identified really early on, I also self identified as a reader and writer really early on.
Shawna Coppola [00:28:55]:
And a lot of why I scored well is connected to my identity. It's connected to my whiteness. It's connected to the fact that I'm a native english speaker. It's connected to the ways my family asks questions, even in the home. It's connected to the kinds of texts I was exposed to at a very young age that were not very diverse in nature in the 1970s. And so that's just one way that it's completely linked. We can't decontextualize identity from literacy. It's because, again, it's a practice.
Shawna Coppola [00:29:39]:
It's not a skill. That's just in the brain. Even though there are brain, obviously, our brain is developing and developing ways to engage in language learning and literacy learning. It's not done in a vacuum. We are human beings that are in the world, and our socialization begins before we're even born. So there's just no way to parse identity, parse it out from literacy.
Roberto Germán [00:30:07]:
That's good. So we get to the fun part. Now, if you had an opportunity to have lunch with any author, educator, or researcher, dead or alive, that focuses on literacy, who would it be and why?
Shawna Coppola [00:30:26]:
Oh, gosh, this is such a hard question. I'm sure everybody says that.
Roberto Germán [00:30:32]:
Most people do.
Shawna Coppola [00:30:36]:
Okay. So, for me, I'm very much an introvert, and I'm very shy, and it takes me a long time to open up. So I have kind of two answers. I know that's not fair, but one answer is, who would I want to spend some time with, have dinner with, who I already have built somewhat of a relationship with, but I've never spent time in person. So I chose Lorena because I feel like we built a collegial relationship online, but I haven't spent much time with her, and I would love to kind of develop that relationship on a deeper level. And then someone who I've never met in person and I've kind of very quickly kind of had an interaction with online, but who I'd be a lot more shy about because I haven't developed a relationship is Dr. April Baker Bell. Because her work, through her book Linguistic justice and all of the work she's done since then has just been so enormously influential on me, and I bring it up wherever I go, and I'm just in awe of her scholarship and her ways of being, and I just think she's a really cool person.
Roberto Germán [00:31:58]:
Those are two great choices. To those that are listening, what is a message of encouragement you'd like to offer them?
Shawna Coppola [00:32:10]:
I think the best words of encouragement I can offer is that having been in this field for 25 years, I am still learning so much every day. So much so that when I finished the manuscript for this book in January, and if you think about the time that's passed up till now, I'm almost aghast at what's going to be published because I've learned so much since then, and it's really scary to put out my thinking from almost a year ago. And so when we think about ways to engage on this path of anti oppressive literacy education, you got to just take the first step. And it's a lifelong process. It's never ending. And we're also working against such big systems and so many institutional barriers that we can only really just begin, and we can only really just continue to work within our spheres of influence and use the privileges that we have, whether they're professional or financial or social, all of those different forms of capital, use them in ways that we can to continue moving. And progress isn't linear. So there are going to be times, there's times when I fall back on things that I kind of rethink, and I'm like, oh, my gosh, I shouldn't have said that in class, or I shouldn't have used this as an assessment.
Shawna Coppola [00:33:51]:
But as long as we're continuing to see the goal at the end, there is no end. But as long as we're continuing to see the goal post along the way and we're continuing to move toward them as best we can, that's all we can do. And I think that is just the best we can do. And not doing that is going to be where I can't offer a lot of encouragement. But if you're taking steps forward as best you can, regardless of the winds that are pushing you back, then you're doing good work and I support you. And whenever you need an ear or a collaborator, do that work in community, it's the best way forward.
Roberto Germán [00:34:35]:
Absolutely. Where can folks preorder literacy for all? A framework for.
Shawna Coppola [00:34:48]:
This? It's tricky because originally it was going to be published through WW Norton, which the education imprint is no longer there. So you can go to Routeledge and see the book. You can't preorder there until I.
Roberto Germán [00:35:06]:
That's right around the.
Shawna Coppola [00:35:08]:
Yeah, yeah. And I hate to tell people to go to Amazon, but you can pre order it on Amazon, but you need to make sure that it's the routeledge version and not the WW Norton version.
Roberto Germán [00:35:21]:
Okay. And for folks that want to learn more about your work or want to connect with you, where can they follow you?
Shawna Coppola [00:35:29]:
Well, just be careful because I am very salty on all the things. I use social media as my personal diary. So I am on Instagram. I'm on X, which is horrible right now. So I'm not, hopefully not going to be on it for much longer. I'm on blue sky. I'm on TikTok. So just find me.
Shawna Coppola [00:35:53]:
You can google my name. I also have a website, so that's where you can find me. And I hope people do connect.
Roberto Germán [00:36:01]:
Donna, thanks for joining us today. It's been a pleasure learning lot from digging into your book and excited for folks to finally be able to access the content that you've been working on these past several years. I know it's been quite a challenge with the changes and the publishing houses and whatnot, but well worth it at the end for you to be able to get this out into the world and so keep moving forward, just as you encouraged us and we look forward to not only reading your book, but connecting with you once again in our classroom.
Shawna Coppola [00:36:41]:
Well, thank you so much. It's been a pleasure to just chat with you and to feel your light, because it does, it comes out through you.
Roberto Germán [00:36:49]:
Roberto Germán [00:36:53]:
As always, your engagement in our classroom is greatly appreciated. Be sure to subscribe, rate the show, and write a review. Finally, for resource courses to help you understand the intersection of race bias, education, and society, go to multiculturalclassroom.com. Peace and love from your host, Rovelto Herman.