A Plurilingual Personal Narrative (by Dr Maria Chiras)

Maria Chiras, our guest blogger this week, is an English instructor at an English college in Montreal, Quebec. Her academic and professional contributions at the college include her involvement in curriculum coordination, committee work, and research projects. Her research interests include plurilingual, and translingual theories, discourse studies, writing studies and new literacies. Her research interests emerge from her own educational experiences as a plurilingual student in Montreal, Quebec. She has recently completed her doctoral research at McGill University, Faculty of Education, in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education. Her research focused on the role of plurilingualism in students’ experiences with language education and writing and the implications of these experiences for student persistence in Quebec higher education, in particular, the interaction between cultural identity, language, and writing. https://www.mcgill.ca/plurilinguallab/maria-chiras

As a first blog post for BILD, I would like to focus on my own personal narrative as a plurilingual growing up in Montreal and what led me to pursue my PhD research. I believe that our positionality plays a crucial role in how we approach both our research and our pedagogical practices.

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To Kill a Mockingbird and Who English Class Is For (by Amanda Light Dunbar)

Amanda Light Dunbar, our guest blogger this week, is a first-year PhD student in Concordia University’s Department of Education. Her primary research focuses on students’ use of SparkNotes study guides for support with high school English Language Arts. Amanda’s work is informed by her interests in inclusive education, Universal Design for Learning, and social justice. Much of her understanding of systemic inequality comes from spending too much time on Twitter. Find her there at @ADunbot or email amanda.light.dunbar@gmail.com.

This 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.

In 2021, readers of the New York Times (NYT) Book Review voted To Kill a Mockingbird the best book of the past 125 years. This caught my attention because Mockingbird comes up frequently in my research on high school English Language Arts (ELA). I’m interested in what it means to “read” a school novel in a context where study guides and prefab essays are widely available, and I use Mockingbird as an example of how easy it is to learn about plot, characters, themes and literary devices without ever picking up the novel. Many people love To Kill a Mockingbird—it won Harper Lee the Pulitzer prize for fiction in 1961 and just won the title of best book of the past 125 years—but I have also seen it described as “one of the most often not read” by high school ELA students (Broz, 2011, p. 15). Somewhere in this contrast is something to be learned about who English class is for, who is included and welcomed, and who is othered and excluded by teachers’ and school boards’ curricular choices.

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An Open Letter to Departments of Education in “Canada”

Our guest bloggers this week are a group of graduate students with first-hand experience of EDI initiatives within a “Canadian” university. The BILD editorship has agreed, exceptionally, that they may remain anonymous. As they say, “We feel exploited and unsupported within so-called EDI committees. We share these frustrations here.”

In order to plot a more equitable future for the field of education in what is now known as Canada, we must first grapple with our history both as a country and as a discipline. In 1867, the English and French empires officially carved provincial and territorial borders into the land, renaming it “Canada.” In order to achieve their long-term settlement goal, the governments of both empires colluded with the RCMP and Christian churches to enact a large-scale genocide of the people Indigenous to “Canada”, resulting in the death of over 4.5 million bodies. Among the Aboriginal communities that remained, over 150,000 children were kidnapped and placed into Residential schools, where staff abused them and attempted to indoctrinate them into Western epistemologies and religions. The last Residential school closed in 1996.

Currently, many Canadian universities and colleges are directly connected to these genocidal religious endeavours (i.e., Jesuit missions in the University of Toronto’s Regis college; Nova Scotia’s St. Mary’s; Concordia University’s Loyola College), and enslavement projects (i.e., McGill University), or are simply products of settler colonial government policies. Canadian classrooms, therefore, have a longstanding tradition of perpetuating colonial ideologies, not least through their history of segregation. In response to these histories, Canadian educational institutions must enact a long-term commitment to actively restore the knowledges of those communities they have targeted and harmed.

In short, Canadian education systems can either continue to serve as a site of Western-centric  and settler colonial epistemologies (Battiste, 2013) or they can actively work to be anti-colonial (i.e., equitable) and anti-oppressive (i.e., inclusive of a diverse population). This letter appeals to those educators wishing to pursue the second path.

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Empathy and Diversity (by Jacqueline Peters)

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.

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Ouvrir les yeux, les oreilles et le cœur des futurs enseignants de français par une approche biographique (by Dr. Catherine Levasseur)

Cette session, je suis chargée de cours à la Faculté des sciences de l’éducation de l’Université de Montréal et j’ai le plaisir de donner le cours de Sociolinguistique et FLS (français, langue seconde). Ce cours s’adresse à de futurs enseignants de français susceptibles de se retrouver dans des classes d’accueil au primaire et au secondaire ou encore d’enseigner la francisation aux adultes immigrants. Mon objectif dans ce cours peut se résumer grossièrement à sensibiliser ces futurs enseignants de français langue seconde aux enjeux de diversité linguistique à l’école québécoise. Continue reading