Professional Update

July 2018 and March 2019 SRIS Newsletters: Continuing the Conversation, Building Solidarity and Allyship

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, but in the meantime, I’ve continued to publish TESOLers for Social Responsibility, the newsletter of TESOL’s Social Responsibility Interest Section. This post will highlight the work we published both in response to the 2018 TESOL Convention in Chicago and leading up to the 2019 TESOL Convention that just wrapped up in Atlanta.

The July 2018 issue of the newsletter was called Continuing the Conversation, Building Solidarity, a theme that was conceived of as a way to extend the conversations started in Chicago. The 2018 convention marked the final year that TESOL had “Forums,” before they transitioned to a new “Professional Learning Network” or PLN model. Many of the Forums that became PLNs focused on identity related or social justice issues, and so we in SRIS were very aware of the change and the reduction of resources as groups became PLNs, so we decided to make space in our newsletter for articles by and about the PLNs. My article, Black Spaces and White Norms: The Importance of BELPaF for the TESOL Community, directly responded to the change in the status of TESOL’s Black English Language Professionals and Friends group, and called on TESOL to recognize the importance of maintaining support for groups that are underrepresented within the organization, especially Black TESOLers. In the second article, Invalidated Identity and Foreign Language Anxiety: A Personal Reflection, James D. Mitchell, a member of the LGBT+ PLN, provided his perspective on how foreign language classrooms can be invalidating spaces for LGBTQ+ learners. Next, in Social Intelligence Course Implementation for English Learners, Jennifer Burr outlined a course that was deliberately designed to build social intelligence skills for newcomer students in Texas. Continuing the focus on learners’ emotional skills, Zsuzsanna Kozák & Ildikó Lázár described how a multimedia project about the Holocaust they conducted in Hungary developed students’ empathy in The Neighbor’s Window: A Visual World Foundation Project on Bystanders Becoming Upstanders. We also shared Cinthya Salazar’s review of the book Teachers as Allies: Transformative Practices for teaching DREAMers and Undocumented Students.

Our pre-convention issue was published earlier this month and focused on Allyship. We started with an article from the Sister Scholars on Speaking Up and Pushing Back: Women of Color in the Academy. These seven women (Rachel Grant, Ryuko Kubota, Angel Lin, Suhanthie Motha, Gertrude Tinker Sachs, Stephanie Vandrick, & Shelley Wong) have been my academic role models ever since I read their article Women Faculty of Color: Theorizing Our Lived Experience when I was in grad school, and it was such an honor to highlight their work from their annual TESOL panel in the newsletter. The theme of race in TESOL continued through the next two articles as well. Scott Stillar wrote a powerful reflection on Decentering Whiteness in TESOL, and my co-editor Anastasia Khawaja wrote with her colleague Lianna Smith on being White women co-chairing TESOL’s Palestinian Educators and friends PLN in Collaboration Under Occupation: Allyship for Palestine. Next, my dear friend and colleague from Tanzania, Catherine James Njau, shared the menstrual education work she does to keep Tanzanian girls in school in Keep Them Flying: Reusable Menstrual Pads and Girls Education in Tanzania. The next article, Out with the Textbook, In with the Computer: Empowering Immigrant University Employees in the ESL Classroom, showcased a course Lisana Mohammed designed to teach English to custodial workers at her university. We end the issue with two pieces focusing on trans and non-binary gender in TESOL. In the first, Transgender University Experience in Mexico, David Ruiz Guzmán shares his experience teaching two transgender students as they navigated language and gender in a rural part of Mexico. Finally, Gabe Winer shares their ideas on how we as TESOL professionals can normalize singular they and create more inclusive educational spaces for transgender, gender nonconforming and nonbinary people in Beyond He/She: The Power of Language in Making ESOL Environments Inclusive for Trans and Nonbinary Students and Colleagues.

It has been an absolute privilege sharing some many powerful ideas and perspectives in the SRIS newsletter over the last two years, and I am incredibly proud of the work Anastasia and I did in reviving and revitalizing the newsletter. We’ve got one final issue,  Social Justice and the Arts, that we are co-editing as a handoff issue with our incredible incoming editors, Luis Javier Pentón Herrera and Ethan Trinh, as Anastasia and I transition into our new roles as Co-Chairs of SRIS. If you’re interested in writing for us, please check out the Call for Submissions and send in your article by April 15!

Professional Update

March 2018 Social Responsibility Interest Section Newsletter: Social Justice in the Current Political Climate

The March issue of the Social Responsibility Interest Section Newsletter is now online. The theme, Social Justice in the Current Political Climate, was chosen to extend the conversation from SRIS’s academic session at the 2018 TESOL Convention that just wrapped up in Chicago, beyond the convention by soliciting articles on the same theme.

At the convention, Anne Marie Foerster Luu, Lelja Bilal-Maley, Maitham Al Lami and Mark Algren presented about DACA, Social Justice Education, the travel ban and the impact of the American political climate on IEP enrollment. Carter Winkle and Anastasia Khawaja facilitated the session. While the presentations at the convention all focused on the US context, the newsletter contributors provided a more international perspective on the impact of the current political climate on English educators around the world.

This issue includes a guide to starting a reading group to explore racial issues with your colleagues, even if no one is an expert on the topic, a study of the identity and language benefits of MMORPGs for “los otros dreamers,” students who have been deported back to Mexico from the United States, two different articles about the challenges of collaborating with teachers in Cuba and learning from Cuban teachers, a look at the challenges of ELT in Turkey, a description of The Hands Up Project, which teaches English through drama and storytelling to Palestinian and Syrian refugee kids over video, and a book review of Out of My Great Sorrows, a biography of an artist and her family’s legacy of trauma following the Armenian genocide.

As usual, I was incredibly proud to work with so many great authors and share their writing with SRIS and the larger TESOL community. Our next issue will be “Continuing the Conversation, Building Solidarity,” which is designed to extend the conversations that happen at TESOL each year and include the rest of the SRIS community, including those who cannot make it to the convention, in the dialogue that takes place. If you’d like to share your ideas in the next issue, please check out the call for submissions and send me your work by May 1, 2018!

Professional Update

September 2017 Social Responsibility Interest Section Newsletter: Identity, Inclusion and Advocacy

This post is an overview of my second issue as co-editor of TESOLers for Social Responsibility, the newsletter for TESOL’s Social Responsibility interest section, which is online here.

For this issue, Anastasia Khawaja, my co-editor, and I chose to have a theme: Identity, Inclusion and Advocacy. I think this really resonated with people in SRIS, because the response we got was fantastic, and we were able to publish a full seven articles! We chose the theme for this issue based on the major issues raised by Seullee Talia Lee’s article, NNEST Issues are Not Only About NNESTs, which is a great piece about multicompetence and NNEST identity transformation, as well as the need for NESTs to step up in the movement for NNEST equality. Talia, who was part of my cohort at SIT, initially submitted her article for our first issue, but we decided to hang on to it and build an issues around its core themes, which I think turned out beautifully. We also had articles about integrating queer themes into an ESL class at a community college in the US, protecting children’s rights in Uganda, the way the Israeli occupation has shaped education for Palestinian students in East Jerusalem, and a detailed account of the laws and discourses surrounding undocumented students in the US. We had a special section featuring two reflections as well, one on TESOL’s Advocacy and Policy Summit from an attendee’s perspective and one on the parallels between diversity and inclusion initiatives and TESOL, by former TESOL president Andy Curtis.

From an editorial perspective, this issue was particularly interesting. We wound up having a lot of behind the scenes discussions, on everything from how to handle local/world Englishes, editing work by people we admire, and advocating for inclusivity behind the scenes, given the sensitive topics this issue touched on. It also lead to my first direct interaction with TESOL’s board, who were incredibly supportive and wonderful to work with. Based on my interactions with them regarding this issues that this issue brought up, I’m really proud to be a part of TESOL, and to have the leadership we do, and I think we established some important precedents for the organization.

Our next issue is themed around Social Justice in the Classroom, and will be coming out in December!

Professional Update

June 2017 Social Responsibility Interest Section Newsletter

My first issue as editor of TESOL’s Social Responsibility Interest Section Newsletter, TESOLers for Social Responsibility, was published today! You can check it out here.

I’m really proud of the work that my co-editor, Anasasia Khawaja, and I did to put this together. The SRIS newsletter hadn’t been published for a while, so we had to start from scratch to get it up and running again. It’s great being able to collaborate with other TESOLers doing important work, and I love that as an editor, I get to draw attention to areas that I think are important and build a conversation. This is particularly important during the current political climate, where many of us feel alone and helpless as we watch awful development after awful development come out of Washington. Anastasia and I remarked to each other several times about how powerful it was to be working on this, to feel like we’re contributing to the betterment of the world.

This issue has four articles, on text selection for diverse students, race and linguicism (my article!), creating inclusive classrooms for LGBTQIA students and a skype tutoring program for women in Afghanistan and Nepal. This is the post-convention issue, so all of the articles relate to the 2017 TESOL convention in Seattle. The first two are reflections, which use Sherman Alexie’s keynote and Shannon Tanghe’s session on linguicism as starting points to discuss larger issues. The second two are written by presenters, summarizing their own sessions. Overall, I think they cover a broad range of issues and really highlight the diversity within the interest section.

It was also really interesting to write my own article for the newsletter. It’s called Addressing Linguicism and its Racial Implications in the Age of Nationalism, and it covers my response to a session I attended called Addressing Linguicism: A Classroom Simulation Activity presented by Shannon Tanghe, last year’s TESOL Teacher of the Year. I think linguicism is an absolutely crucial issue, but it’s often overlooked in favor of other -isms, particularly those that people feel aren’t under people’s own control. While, yes, you can learn new languages, linguistic prejudice is often directed at people on the basis of their non-native status, which absolutely is not something under personal control. In addition, linguicism is often used as a more socially acceptable cover for racism. While Tanghe didn’t focus on the racial implications of linguicism, for me, they are absolutely central to how I think about both linguicism and race within TESOL. So my article describes her simulation activity and the ways it led me to reconsider my own teaching practice, as well as the connections between race- and language-based discrimination. I also offer some suggestions for both classroom teachers and teacher educators on incorporating activities that raise awareness of linguicism and its racial implications for their students. If you read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to email me or leave a comment here.

Next issue’s theme is Identity, Inclusion and Advocacy, so if you’ve got something to say on those issues, check out our call for submissions and get in touch! Submissions are due August 1, 2017.