Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum
Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum
Gilyard is especially interested in language education for African Americans and other people of color. In his poetry and the books of essays he has edited, and particularly in his work Voices of the Self, he reflects on the rhetoric of race and on his personal history. Having grown up "a Native Black English speaker in an urban public school environment" who acquired not only strong Standard English language skills, but the "socio-linguistic competence" to be successful in a variety of settings, Gilyard explores the question of the place of culture, race, and language in the classroom.
Voices of the Self alternates chapters about Gilyard's own life and education with chapters examining scholarship on language acquisition and linguistic development. One of the key ideas underlying both sections is Gilyard's belief that the language and experiences of children must have a legitimate place in the classroom. He writes: "A pedagogy is successful only if it makes knowledge or skills achievable while at the same time allowing students to maintain their own sense of identity." As his own story illustrates, young African American boys can feel that there is no way to truly be themselves and also succeed in school. Gilyard writes that "a failure to learn Standard English is more accurately termed an act of resistance: Black students affirming, through Black English, their sense of self in the face of a school system and society that deny the same."
Gilyard cites several writers and books that influenced him and echoed some of his own experiences and beliefs. Richard Wright's Black Boy is, for him, as for many male African American writers of his generation, "always at the top of the list." Other memoirs that were particularly resonant include Richard Rodriquez's Hunger of Memory and John Edgar Wideman's Brothers and Keepers. The work of Jonathan Kozol and Herbert Kohl in teaching groups of inner-city children showed him ways to honor students' out-of-school language and experiences. And as a poet, Gilyard remembers Haki Madhubuti's We Walk the Way of the World as the "single most influential volume of poetry I read as a teenager." As a mature poet, he has been influenced deeply by Nikki Giovanni, Quincy Troupe, Langston Hughes, Pablo Neruda, and Aimé Césaire.
Works by the Author