Ring the Multicultural bell

I’d like to preface this by saying that I love the phrase Paradigm Shift. It’s an incredible way to explain the changing of ones approach in a way that holds more weight. onto the readings.

I liked how bell hooks started this chapter by stating a very important fact that most of us do not think of. “Let’s face it: most of us were taught in classrooms where styles of teachings reflected the notion of a single norm of thought and experience, which we were encouraged to believe was universal” (hooks 35). Students are taught with this norm from day one, and educators are taught to teach it. From day one we are molded by this system so much that we grow accustomed to it. To break free of this system and create one that adopts multiple cultures you need a level of self-awareness. (it is my belief that to ever grow as a person, educator, professional etc. self awareness is necessary.) hooks mentions that its necessary to understand that no education is politically neutral. She also makes a comment that the choice to only teach works by old dead white guys (my phrasing not hers) is a political decision. (quick side note: I love the works of old dead white guys. Blake, Wordsworth, Lord Tennyson, etc. BUT I’m well aware that only having their perspectives blinds me to the plethora of writers and art that reside in the rest of the world. FIN of side note). This decision however is one that we are accustomed to seeing, but the lack of awareness is what makes it dangerous and alienating to multicultural students.

I want to highlight a very important part of this chapter, her mention of Toni Morrison. From the few books I’ve read of Morrison I cannot fathom the idea of not teaching or analyzing her work without ever making reference to race or ethnicity. It’s such an important part of her work that to deny or exclude it tokenizes her works, her life, her experience, her struggles.
Another very important part of this chapter I wish to highlight is when hooks writes:

Teaching in a traditional discipline from the perspective of critical pedagogy means that I often encounter students who make complaints like, ‘1 thought this was supposed to be an English class, why are we talking so much about feminism?” (Or, they might add, race or class.) In the transformed classroom there is often a much greater need to explain philosophy, strategy, intent than in the “norm” setting. I have found through the years that many of my students who bitch endlessly while they are taking my classes contact me
at a later date to talk about how much that experience meant to them, how much they learned

Hooks (42)

I wanted to mention this because I was one of these students. I once took a class on Romantic Era Literature in which the reading material was still written by old dead white guys however it was centered around slavery. Most don’t realize that the era of romanticism was at its height from 1800-1850…..and on 1865 the 13th Amendment outlawed slavery. In order to teach this era critically there is a greater need to explain the philosophy, strategy, intent of these writers in this time period. All of this to say that our self-awareness is crucial in creating a transformed classroom in which we can better teach multicultural students.

“Tutoring ESL Students: Issues & Options” by Muriel Harris and Tony Silva gave me flashbacks of last semester when taking Writing Pedagogies (A course I highly recommend to anyone specially educators and those wishing to be part administration). These flashbacks consist of the friendship I made with Edna. She is Columbian and has a good grasp of the English language. We became close last semester during class discussion when she would speak Spanish to me and I would respond either in Spanish or English. It was the first time I was able to express my thoughts and ideas in my mother tongue. Reminiscing aside, the quote “is the student’s lack of language proficiency in English keeping her from expressing a rich internal sense of what she wants to write about?” sent me into a spiral of wonder (Harris & Silva 528). Language barriers are one of the biggest challenges for educators today. I keep thinking about all my ESL teachers and the ways they taught me. It’s hard to recall since my brain felt as if it was being reprogrammed to the English language. BUT what I do remember is the size of the classroom. 3 students. Me, my sister and another kid whose name eludes me. I believe that the size of this class gave “individualized attention” to us. Perhaps that’s why I learned English so quickly, who’s to say.

Multicultural Education

How to Provide a Multicultural Education

Multicultural education is defined as an education method that fuses every individual’s stories, writings, qualities, beliefs, and points of view from numerous social foundations. Thus, the primary purpose of implementing it in classrooms is to enable educators to adjust or join exercises to highlight diversity and social variety with a vast advantage that implants tolerance and acceptance in individuals. However, in agreement with Bell Hooks, Chapter 3, embracing change teaching in a multicultural world of teaching to transgress education as the practice of freedom, “let’s face it: most of us were taught in classrooms where styles of teaching reflected the notion of a single norm of thought and experience, which we were encouraged to believe was universal: (35). Undoubtedly, this is a statement of truth has long spread across the board for nonwhite and white teachers. I can remember that multicultural education was not a part of the curriculum. Every damaged or worn-out textbook did not include people and stories of color and other minorities as far back as grade school. It wasn’t until I returned to college that I began to see multicultural education through a different lens.

As most are aware, unlike many colleges, Kean University is committed to providing equal opportunity in employment and education, as well as equity of conditions for employment and education, to all employees, students and applicants without regard to race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, sex/gender (including pregnancy), marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, familial status, religion, affectional or sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, genetic information, liability for service in the Armed Forces of the United States, or disability.  But I noticed, as Hook mentions, “in two particular critical studies, for example, individuals will often focus on women of color at the very end of the semester or lump everything about race and difference together in one section (38). I learned quickly how some professors were not keen on transforming and adapting Kean’s multicultural pedagogical practices. On the other hand, I am delighted with the courses where white female English professors are eager to insert Toni Morrison’s work in their syllabus of course and teach her work referring to hot topics about race and ethnicity (38). Those courses are where I have experienced the power of a transformative pedagogy rooted in a respect for multiculturalism. (40). There are no questions, “just as it may be difficult for professors to shift their paradigms, it is equally difficult for students (41). This is indeed not an easy feat to accomplish within the classroom setting, as Hook expresses specific teachers’ and students’ negative and positive reactions. Therefore, as a hopeful classroom teacher:

1) I would specifically create a multicultural inclusion “ice breaker” exercise intended to help students from various cultures begin the process of forming themselves into teams. A (Multicultural Inclusion) game activity will be implemented to “warm up” the students by allowing them to get to know each other and learn about each family’s history, culture, and how we connect in one way or another. (Allen 2020).

2) Students would be asked to create personal journals to jot down all their concerns outside the classroom throughout the school year. As a class, we will then share, address (discuss), and tackle those outside experiences (issues) at least once a week for the calendar year. Therefore, providing ongoing conversations regarding multiculturalism and promoting a comfortable, diverse environment within the classroom setting all year long. (Allen 2020).

Muriel Harris and Tony Silva’s Tutoring ESL Students: Issues and Options theory concludes by stating, “Such information can only serve to illuminate the work of ESL teachers” (533) in linguistic diversity. Furthermore, whether in school or the world at large, there is often something new to learn. For instance, though I failed at learning a second language, I never considered the importance of learning one. And how, unfortunately, from grade school to college, I do not recall teachers pressing this concern until now. As a result, If need be, I would reconsider learning another language to enable myself to connect with my class effectively. So that no child in my classroom will feel the need to “sink or swim.” Most importantly, I would also create a motivating “language inventory” classroom activity. Instead of sending students home to conduct the research, I could implement and undertake the following activity in the classroom:

  • Students will break into groups of four or more and inquire whom they know or understand who speaks another language or other languages.
  • One lead student will interview each student in the group, and another student within the group will record the data obtained.
  • Each lead student, including his or her own, will report the data to the class for class discussion.

These activities will further foster class participation and teach about the importance of linguistic diversity within a classroom setting. It will also bring awareness to the matter across U.S. classrooms in general, especially for tutoring ESL students. (Allen 2020).

Transformative Education & Language Justice

Teachers need to transform the education field for the sake of their present and future students. English is not the only language that majority of the student population speak, as within the United States and the rest of North America, we live on land in which the Indigenous peoples’ mother tongues or cultural languages are not English. The U.S. specifically is a melting pot of diverse ethnicities, religions, cultures, races, and communities. Therefore, having English be the primary language for every conversation in schools puts students who have English as a second language in danger of failing in their classes.

bell hooks’ Teaching to transgress covers the importance of transforming the classroom and motivating students to change their ways of understanding and interacting with the world. Multiculturalism shows us how the classroom has been set up with boundaries that perpetuate biases. It makes us complicit in doing so, even with the best intentions. Students are shown to complain when they figure out that they will be talking about race, feminism, or class in an English class. This shows that students are not used to talking about these topics unless it’s in a specific rare situation. We don’t talk about these topics enough with young people.

Muriel Harris and Tony Silva cover the idea of approaching students with different needs in Tutoring ESL Students: Issues and Options when it comes to teaching ESL students. The proficiency of students whose first language is not English differs between students. Like students who are learning about race, feminism, and class for the first time, students learning to speak, read, and write in a new language will show discomfort with the unfamiliar fields. Contexts are different, with the influence from other languages and cultures causing a disconnect with the new material.

To reach language justice and transformative education, teachers need to come together with their students to break down the language and cultural barriers set up by the homogenization of American and western English-speaking classrooms. Teaching should involve allowing students to speak up in the ways they are able to, communicating with students as equals instead of talking down at them, and opening up dialogue for unfamiliar territory and new ideas. ESL students need to have educators that will approach them based on the specific needs they have. Multilingualism is important for educational programs to have, as everyone comes from different backgrounds and it is a disservice to ESL students to only prioritize english and only sometimes highlight another language that isn’t spanish.

Change is a Scary Thing

Please welcome Change to the stage!

Now I know that Change is a scary thing for many people, but for Bell Hooks, it is long overdue. In Chapter 3 of Teaching to Transgress, Hooks states “Many teachers are disturbed by the political implications of a multicultural education because they fear losing control in a classroom where there is no one way to approach a subject-only multiple ways and multiple references.” (Hooks). 

The Education system is long overdue for a radical change. Let’s look at History classes. We all have learned the story of Christopher Columbus in school and outside of the classroom have learned that he was a horrible person. Yet, how many stories have we learned in school about the Indigenous people who were here long before Christopher Columbus? Not many at all. Why is Christopher Columbus part of every curriculum yet the Indigenous people are always left out?

These questions start to illustrate why Hooks feels that change is needed in the Education system. Hooks herself wondered why so many white male authors are taught in English classes. Did you ever notice growing up how authors of color were mostly studied in February during Black History Month only? It’s these racial biases that are deeply embedded in the American Education system that shape teaching pedagogy. 

Growing up, you just kinda accept the fact that you are only studying one group of people (White males) during your Education career. As a kid you don’t really understand it, but as you grow older, you question it. And it makes you wonder how different your way of thinking would be if you learned about all different types of people. And it makes you wonder who benefits from keeping things the way they are.

Our next guest is Tutoring ESL Students. The article Tutoring ESL Students: Issues and Options by Muriel Harris and Tony Silva is a perfect example of why multiculturalism is needed in the Education system. The authors state 

“The findings (and these should be seen as very tentative) suggest that adult ESL writers plan less, write with more difficulty (primarily due to a lack of lexical resources), reread what they have written less, and exhibit less facility in revising by ear, that is, in an intuitive manner-on the basis of what “sounds” right, than their NES peers.” (Harris & Silva).

If a tutor knows those things about adult ESL writers, it allows them to be much more helpful. Knowing that the writers plan less tells a tutor that they need to focus on the prewriting stage. The tutor might spend extra time going over strategies for planning such as outlining. This will help the ESL writer when it comes to writing their draft and it will allow the ESL writer to become more familiar with the prewriting process. This is one reason why multicultural education is important for both students and those who teach/tutor the students.

Harris and Silva’s article raises an important point about how many ESL writers want tutors to correct the grammar of their work above all else. This makes sense from the perspective of the ESL writer because they don’t have a full understanding of all the in’s and out’s of the English language so a tutor can clean up their grammar since they have a more complex understanding of English writing. But this approach doesn’t address the bigger concerns of a student’s writing such as the organization of ideas and rhetoric. It is more important to help students understand these issues before dealing with grammar. Helping a student see that will allow them to focus on the main points of their work, rather than minor details. 

Voices in Education: Multicultural Pedagogy & Tutoring ESL Students

As our class delves into the topic of writing and multicultural/multilingualism this week, we are guiding through the profound insights found in Chapter 3, Embracing Change in Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by Bell Hooks and Tutoring ESL Students: Issues & Options by Muriel Harris and Tony Silva. These readings offer unique perspectives on education, urging us to reconsider traditional approaches and embrace the changes in the education system over the years. 

In Chapter 3, Embracing Change in Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, Hooks challenges the lack of practical discussions on teaching in culturally diverse classrooms. This observation resonates with the education system, highlighting the need for a more inclusive and diverse pedagogical approach. The emphasis on multiculturalism as recognition, acceptance, and preservation of diverse cultures underscores the importance of moving beyond a singular perspective. Hooks urges educators to courageously embrace the reality that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to teaching, encouraging a shift towards valuing multiple perspectives.

I agree with Bell Hooks statement when she mentions:

The idea of Hooks’s pedagogy is the importance of voice. Hooks is critical of Paulo Freire’s traditional “banking concept of education,” in which students are passive and silent learners. She argues that all students should have a voice in the classroom to share their own experiences, ideas, and beliefs. Equally important to Hooks is that students learn to listen to one another. When students hear and understand voices besides their own, it allows them to recognize and acknowledge that the classroom is a community.

Looking back at my undergraduate years, I remember how I was required to take a multicultural education course myself. Not that I didn’t know this before, but it was in this class that I understood and became aware of the importance of including every student’s perspectives, cultural backgrounds, and individual experiences. This course served as a pivotal moment of enlightenment, revealing the significance of fostering an inclusive and diverse learning environment. It not only broadened my understanding of diverse cultures but also emphasized the need for educators to go beyond the differences of every student.

I enjoyed reading Bell Hooks perspective on Chapter 3, Embracing Change in Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom as she challenges educators to reassess their pedagogical approaches, advocating for a transformative education that values diversity, embraces multiple perspectives, and fosters a sense of community and shared goals. Her insights prompt us to reflect on how we can contribute to creating more inclusive and empowering learning environments.

Moving onto our next assigned article for this week, Tutoring ESL Students: Issues & Options by Muriel Harris and Tony Silva, the authors delve into the complexities faced by tutors working with ESL students. The central theme revolves around the challenges in determining whether a student’s difficulties lie in language proficiency or writing skills. The authors emphasize on the intricate negotiation process between tutors and students when establishing the tutoring agenda. Harris and Silva make an impactful statement when they mention the possible issues ESL Students and tutors can come across:

A critical question by Harris and Silva revolves around the tutor’s ability to determine whether a student requires assistance primarily with language proficiency or the writing process. Tutors face the challenge of navigating this intricate relationship to identify the specific causes of a student’s writing difficulties. This can be a pivotal point for tutors, urging them to cultivate a solid understanding of language nuances and be discerning when language challenges might mask the student’s genuine writing capabilities. Harris and Silva stress the tutor’s multifaceted role, emphasizing the importance of a nuanced assessment that connects language proficiency and writing skills. The authors highlight the dynamic nature of this assessment, urging tutors to adapt their approaches to cater to each student’s unique needs.

The article Tutoring ESL Students: Issues & Options by Muriel Harris and Tony Silva serves as a valuable resource for tutors, offering insights into the complexities of working with ESL students. They provide guidance on navigating the delicate balance between language proficiency and writing skills, emphasizing the importance of tailored tutoring approaches that address the unique needs of each student in this diverse and dynamic educational world.

A Paradigm Shift

This week’s reading included yet another chapter from Bell Hooks’s book Teaching to Transgress. In this specific chapter, entitled Embracing Change: Teaching in a Multicultural World, Bell Hooks expressed her disdain for the lack of diversity in higher education and proposed a few solutions to this problem. Before I dive into her actual writing, however, I would like to commend Bell Hooks and other theorists who fought an uphill battle to create a more inclusive educational environment nationwide. While there are still issues in regard to a lack of inclusivity, the United States public school system (and beyond to a degree) has progressed greatly on the front of offering a more culturally diverse curriculum. Although a myriad of frustrating problems still plague the education system in this country, it seems that we are taking a step in the right direction as far as multiculturalism goes. Had it not been for scholars such as Bell Hooks and Paulo Freire fighting against these enormous problems pervading not only education but society as a whole, we would be living in a far worse world.

In chapter 3 itself, Hooks shares her own experience as a nontenured professor teaching at a university with predominantly white male professors. Most of these professors were resistant to the concept of a multicultural curriculum or made overtly racist comments when confronted with this new approach. Even in a course that focused on works written by women, there was noticeably low effort put into representing non-European cultures. Aside from the issues involving the professors themselves, many of Hooks’s own students were (at least initially) resistant to her multicultural approach. According to Hooks students would regularly make comments such as “‘I thought this was supposed to be an English class, why are we talking so much about feminism?’ (Or, they might add, race or class.)” (Hooks 42). This is understandable given that these students were not previously challenged to critically analyze literature on a philosophical or sociological level. Now when exposed to these concepts, they are confused and do not see the link between the subject of English and other disciplines. However, while Hooks describes many of her students despising her class for its more critical approach to literature, she also states: “I have found through the years that many of my students who bitch endlessly while they are taking my classes contact me at a later date to talk about how much that experience meant to them, how much they learned” (Hooks 42). It would seem that her approach had an impact on her students and opened their minds to a new lens upon which they could view and assess the world. Part of this approach, it appears, involved the students regularly sharing their own experiences and thoughts to one another which is a brilliant way to allow various viewpoints and cultures to blend.

The second assigned reading this week was “Tutoring ESL Students: Issues and Options” written by the scholars Muriel Harris and Tony Silva. Right off the bat, I agreed with the authors that ESL students require, more than anything, individual attention in order to allow them to progress their knowledge of the English language. Far too often, it seems that ESL students are thrown into standard English classes and forced to either sink or swim. This approach is obviously insufficient and can cause ESL students to become discouraged and give up entirely. The key component to being able to tutor ESL students properly according to Harris and Silva, is to first understand the perspective of these students. If educators were able to put themselves into the shoes of their ESL students, they would soon learn that it is an immensely difficult struggle to learn both a new culture and language simultaneously and often at an inconveniently older age. This is why the authors emphasize recognizing what went well in the ESL student’s work first and foremost before making other comments. The main thing that these students require–particularly early on–is encouragement as they are taking on a monumental task.

In closing, an inclusive curriculum combined with devoting special care and attention to ESL students can go a long way in promoting a more diverse and ethical society. At the end of the day, the main goal of the education system should be to create ethical and functional members of society, and therefore we must focus on fostering a learning environment that represents multiple world views and cultures. The United States has a reputation for offering refuge to people of all cultures and draws its strength from this rich background. It is my hope that this core idea continues to progress into the future.

Paper, Slides, & Response to “Suggestions for Tutoring ESL Students”

Reaction Paper


My reaction paper and presentation are above. My response to “Suggestions for Tutoring ESL Students” is below.

Suggestions for Tutoring ESL Students: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

When registering for the Spring 2024 semester, I noticed on the list of classes we can choose from that there are three electives that have to do with tutoring in or administration of writing centers. Working in a writing center in the future would be interesting to me–I could have the benefits of teaching without the drawbacks. (Imagine, one-on-one interactions with students without having to grade papers afterward–that’s living the dream!) I also had many ESL students in my former life as an English teacher, so I was very interested in this week’s article by Tony Silva, “Tutoring ESL Students: Issues and Options.” In it, Silva offers strategies for tutors tasked with helping ESL students with their writing. While reading it, I looked backward, revisiting my interactions with ESL students to see how my strategies compared to Silva’s, and forward, thinking about which tips might be useful should I ever find myself working at a writing center. While I found parts of the article that could be useful to me, my response to this article was skewed toward the negative. On the one hand, I was really happy to read an article that offers some specific advice about how best to serve the ESL population in the capacity of a writing tutor. On the other hand, I was taken aback by Silva’s insistence on the limitations of ESL students.

Let’s start with the positive. What I found to be the most interesting in the article was Silva’s position that the social interactions between the tutor and the student are just as important as the teaching that goes on, and that, in fact, it may not be possible to teach the student effectively if there is a lack of cultural understanding: “[U]nderstanding and accommodating cultural differences is, to a great extent, what ESL instruction is all about” (Silva 527). Silva also suggests that it is important to learn how to differentiate between cultural preferences in writing and weaknesses in writing, and I support his conclusion that the rules of American English are not better or more correct “conventions and preferences,”  but rather “alternate” ones (527). He advises that American tutors should, if possible, learn about sources of potential cultural misunderstandings, like eye contact, personal space, physical contact, and customs surrounding time management, prior to working with ESL students (Silva 527). He also mentions that ESL writers may “come from cultures/educational systems where teachers are expected to be “tellers,” where those who don’t “tell” are seen as poor teachers, or where such casual interaction with relative strangers is seen as odd or inappropriate” (Silva 533). With Silva taking so much care to avoid positioning American ideas and rules as superior to those of other countries, I was very surprised when I reached page 533.

After enjoying the reading and finding it interesting and helpful, I encountered the following sentence: “Tutors need to tell ESL writers that it is unrealistic for them to expect to be able to write like native speakers of English” (Silva 533). Silva goes on to advise tutors to “explain that even non-native speakers of English who live in an English-speaking area for many years and write regularly in English maintain a written accent” (Silva 533). He goes on to say that the tutor should tell the ESL student not to worry because if native speakers “penalize them” for minor writing problems, it will only be a small penalty (533). While I think it is reasonable to tell a student that he will not learn how to write like a native speaker in the short time he is with a tutor, I think that it is not right to dash his hopes of ever doing so. For all of the good that Silva is trying to do by sharing his knowledge in this article, this part made a little alarm bell go off in my mind: Is he being racist? He’s not citing any evidence to support his proclamation that people who aren’t native English speakers can never write like native English speakers–he just declares it to be so, repeatedly. Are there exceptions and idioms in English that make it incredibly challenging to avoid making mistakes? Sure, but they are not infinite. If someone truly wanted to learn them, I believe they could. Silva is claiming that all ESL students, without consideration of the age at which they began learning English or how hard-working they are, are all equally limited in their ability to achieve true proficiency–this is stereotyping. Silva is saying that their lack of Americanness will prevent them from full mastery of English.

I had hoped that this comment was just a one-off, but to my dismay, it was not. Two more times in the article Silva positions ESL students as lacking the potential for full mastery. On page 535, he writes that “it’s not realistic to expect that an ESL writer will ever use articles like a native speaker does. ESL students should be encouraged to do the best they can and then get a native speaker to proofread their work” (Silva 535). I had a visceral reaction to the idea that the ESL students should “do the best they can” and then, when they reach their threshold of understanding, they can ask a benevolent and heroic native English speaker to lift them up from their state of confusion and carry them to the finish line. How patronizing! And, if there’s any hope that I’m just misinterpreting his position, he writes one last time that “even the most proficient [ESL students] aren’t likely to display native speaker-like intuitions” (Silva 535). It makes sense that they wouldn’t have intuition, but I would hope that an educator would understand that acquired knowledge can inform something like proofreading. And, for what it’s worth, I have encountered plenty of native speakers of English who were unable to hear the mistakes in their own writing.

I understand that Tony Silva is in a helping profession and that the whole point of this article is to help people. I understand that he has years of experience under his belt and I cannot deny that there are useful strategies offered in the article, some of which I have used in the past to help my own ESL students succeed. But after working through my thoughts on Silva’s comments, I don’t know whether I should trust any of Silva’s suggestions if some of them are patronizing and soul-crushing. I may work at a writing center someday, but I know for sure that I will never tell another human being that he will never be as good at writing as I am. No way, no how.