McGill Master’s students in Education and I have just finished a wild ride through
what’s called a “Special Topics” course from January through mid-April. It was
called “Acquiring Indigenous languages as second languages,” and was quite
possibly the most exhilarating, tormenting, troubling and ultimately satisfying
experience I can recall in 25 or so years of teaching graduate courses in
But I have to
re-think that word “teaching,” because I have no illusions that I taught that
course. It taught me.
This week’s blog post includes a linked audio file. Just click on the link below if you would like to hear the post read aloud. Scroll down to read the text.
Our guest blogger this week, Narjes Hashemi, is a second-year master’s student in Education and Society in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University. She has been working as a graduate research assistant (GRA) on the SSHRC funded project “Countering religious extremism through education in multicultural Canada”, under the direction of Dr. Ratna Ghosh. She graduated with a BA in Sociology degree from the University of British Columbia. Her MA thesis explores women’s roles in preventing religious extremism in Afghanistan.
My name is Narjes. اسم من نرجس است. It’s an Arabic and Persian name meaning a specific kind of daffodil (also known as Narcissus flower). It’s a very popular name in the Middle East as well as in Afghanistan, Tajikstan, Iran and India. In Iran, it’s commonly known as Narges. In India, Tajikstan, and Afghanistan, where I’m from, it’s spelled Nargis but it’s really all one name, pronounced and written differently in different countries.
The more a teacher knows about a student, the more equipped [they are] to organize an instructional program that caters directly [the student’s] social and intellectual needs (Warren, 2014).
My doctoral thesis examines empathy in social institutions, specifically medical institutions. One of my chapters will be on race and empathy. Recent events both here and in the US have got me thinking about diversity (or lack thereof) and empathy (or lack thereof). My questions here are on where empathy fits into a discussion on diversity, and on what, if any, effect empathy has on the creation of, or dealings with, diversity. To this end, and to bring to a close my blog entries for this academic year, I’d like to talk about how empathy affects diversity in the classroom.
Every year, on March 25, the Greek Independence Day is celebrated. This date marks the official start of the Greek Revolution in 1821, which ended eight years later with the Independence of Greece from the Ottoman Empire. People celebrate this day every year across Greece, with the parade being the capstone of all festivities. Students, cultural organizations, and people serving in the Greek army all participate in the parade to honor their ancestors and commemorate their achievements and sacrifices for the country.
The celebrations are not limited to the regions of Greece. Every year, the Evzones or Evzonoi, the members of the Greek Presidential Guard, participate in the parade honoring the Greek Independence on New York’s Fifth Avenue. Greeks who have emigrated also hold celebrations on March 25. There are festivities and parades in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide (Australia), New York City, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia (USA), Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver (Canada) to name a few.
Recently I invited Dr. Marsha Liaw, Educational Director of a Chinese-English bilingual program in Massachusetts, to give a talk to my graduate class on pluriliteracies and trans-semiotization. We both share an understanding of language and literacy from a heteroglossic perspective (Blackledge & Creese, 2014) which highlights not only the interconnections between languages but also their interdependence with other semiotic systems, underscoring the inherent multimodal nature of any human communication. All semiotic modes, be they written-linguistic or visual, graphic, audio or spatial, are intricately connected as sense-making devices and resources (Cope & Kalantzis, 2013). This expanded view of language and literacy is core to translanguaging (Li, 2017) and/or pluriliteracies practices, allowing us to understand the complex indexicalities of varied semiolinguistic resources that complement and/or juxtapose each other to give rise to new, enriched meanings (Kress et al. 2005). The paradigmatic shift also helps disrupt the traditional deficit-oriented view of second language (L2) or plurilingual individuals, repositioning them as agentive actors in their constant, active mixing and meshing of semiolinguistic resources to transfer, construct, recontextualize and re-semiotize different ways of knowing, being and acting (García, Bartlett, & Kleifgen, 2009) for different social purposes.