Multicultural & Multilingual contexts

Thanks to Rachel for kicking off our multicultural & multilingual theme with a closer look at the third chapter of “Embracing Change” in Teaching to transgress: education as the practice of freedom by bell hooks. I am so glad we took a closer look at the concepts of multiculturalism and inclusion in the classroom as a first step in our overall discussion. There is no doubt that everyone stands to benefit from a diversity of cultural and linguistic perspectives in a learning community. But the work of bridging differences in a classroom setting is both critical and challenging.

Rachel’s use of the Netflix clips from Ginny & Georgia highlighted some pitfalls brilliantly. The egregious lack of care and the problem of “tokenism” was on clear display when considering Ginny’s plight in her AP English class. The teacher, confident in his own authority and expertise, could not be bothered (by either person or perspective different than his own). When called out, he simultaneously dismisses his student with disdain, while also requiring her to do the work that he does not intend to be bothered with. Ginny is asked to bear the brunt of symbolic racial representation (as the only black student). Here we can see clearly the kind of trauma that this might induce. Our discussion was important, making more evident the kind of effort required when designing for truly cross-cultural dialogues that sustain an open and inclusive learning environment. One of the great paradoxes of pluralism and today’s era of globalization is that we are undoubtedly becoming more closely interconnected in many respects: communications, media, trade, travel, capital flows, knowledge flows and culture flows.  But we are also simultaneously making ourselves more different.  For this reason we need to learn to become discerning, ethical navigators, understanding the complexity of identities in a new media environment. The critical components of care, and compassionate listening, are now more than ever a requirement for 21st century learning design.

Thanks to Cindy for taking us through the second article focusing on English Language Learners and writing.   With Tutoring ESL Students:  Issues & Options by Muriel Harris and Tony Silva, we consider the struggle that some ESL tutors experience when trying to explain why we say “on Monday” but “in June.”  Harris and Silva pointed out the difficulties in tutoring ELL students. What they say is true: most tutors have no idea where to start when considering an ELL’s writing.  We seem to once again enter into the difficult realm of grammar rules while we must confront the limits of a notion of language “intuition” regarding correct usage.  

Harris and Silva also mention that new tutors feel like they need to fix every mistake the ESL writer has made instead of teaching them certain rules or concepts more gradually.  Deciding between global and local problems in students’ writing is certainly a part of their recommendation. The authors mention that tutors should first tell the students what they have done correctly and then approach the mistakes one at a time without approaching everything that’s wrong with their writing.  Honestly, that seems like good advice when offering feedback in general. We have certainly read this before (in the context of student feedback).   The article covers how to prioritize, looking for patterns (which cover cultural differences as well), recognizing differences, whether ESL writers compose differently, how to confront errors and adjust expectations, setting goals for a tutoring session, resisting the urge to “tell,” deciding what aspects of grammar to focus on, and encouraging proofreading.

Our class slides:

Your to-do list:

Tyler will kick off class by presenting on the theme of Linguistic Justice. Please read the following three selections, and blog your reflection response:

After Tyler has finished his presentation, we will all celebrate together! Our “Friendsgiving” gathering is a potluck party, so please feel free to bring some food to share with others. Also, please feel free to invite others who might be interested or affiliated with our program!

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