Holding fast to whose truth? Resistance to caste and communalism as personal satyagraha (by Dr Mela Sarkar)

“…while always travelling seriously, he was always travelling light.”
(Williams, 1971, p. 88)

One way to travel light—a cycle rickshaw in Jadavpur, South Kolkata, viewed from our family’s fourth-floor apartment.

The serious traveller who always travelled light was George Orwell; writing in 1971, socialist critic Raymond Williams unravels Orwell’s multifaceted history and reveals aspects of his life and work I had not known about, in under 100 informative pages. I took the book along with me to India in mid-December 2022 primarily because it was so tiny. I also was attempting to travel light. I hope I may say, to travel seriously as well.

Continue reading

When you are the first generation in your family to be able to attend school (by Dr. Mela Sarkar in collaboration with Chhanda Bashuri, Titli Das Bairagya, Aduri, Bharati & Puspa Mirdha, Shraboni Mondal, and Manjari Roy Chowdhury)

Introductions at the ISW Chella site. Left to right: Bharati, Puspa, Aduri, Sitola, Shraboni & Chhanda

A village in rural West Bengal, India, where as early as February the temperature goes up to 35 degrees Celsius or so every day, with no prospect of rain until April or May, is about as far from a Montreal winter as one can imagine. It’s where I have just spent four weeks working with several gifted and enthusiastic young women who teach at supplemental schools run by a local NGO, the Institute of Social Work (ISW). Like many NGOs across India and in the developing world, ISW works in the local language (here, Bengali) and draws mostly on local resources. My cousin Nupur Sarkar has been part of ISW since its inception in 1978; I am much indebted to her for having made it possible for me to spend time at ISW’s Birbhum-district schools. After a previous visit in 2019, I wrote about the experience here on the BILD blog, and have dreamed ever since then of coming back and staying awhile.

Continue reading

Reconciling what you believe in and what you have to do: English-only policies in language schools (by Grace Labreche)

This week’s guest blogger is Grace Labreche, a PhD Student at McGill University. She is interested in accent bias towards second language speakers, specifically in shifting the focus off of accent reduction practices and towards addressing accent bias among native speakers. In her research, Grace asks: How can we mitigate the bias in listeners instead of asking speakers to reduce their accent? How does a listener’s language attitudes and ideologies impact their listening bias? As an applied sociolinguist, she hopes to use her research to inform educational policy in language learning institutions. When she is not working or in school, Grace loves to paint and cross stitch. She also enjoys gardening while listening to horror podcasts, much to the dismay of her neighbours.

It is a little over a year today that I began the exciting new chapter in my life as a language school administrator in a private language school. This language school, like many others in Montreal, is a boutique language school, whose main clientele are wealthy international students and tourists looking to take some language courses while visiting abroad. The courses are costly compared to government funded language programs and the school’s main source of student recruitment is international language tourism agencies and advisors. 

Continue reading

Entry Points for Critical Language Awareness and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy in Teacher Education for Multilinguals: A Reflection (by Dr Leah Shepard-Carey)

Leah Shepard-Carey, our guest blogger this week, is an Assistant Professor of Graduate Studies in the School of Education at Drake University (Iowa, United States). She teaches courses for programs in ESL education, Literacy education, and Culturally Responsive Leadership. Her research explores multilingual pedagogies in English-medium settings, supporting critical language awareness and culturally-sustaining pedagogies in teacher education, and collaborative and design-based approaches to educational research. Her research has been featured in TESOL Quarterly, TESOL Journal, Linguistics and Education, Language Awareness, Classroom Discourse, and The Journal of Early Childhood Literacy.

Frameworks such as culturally and linguistically sustaining pedagogy (CSP) and critical language (CLA) awareness are well-established in research, yet applying these concepts in teacher education and K-12 classrooms continues to be an urgent and pertinent endeavor. Culturally and linguistically sustaining pedagogy (Paris, 2012; Paris & Alim, 2016) is grounded in sustaining the cultural and linguistic “pluralism” of schools and society (Paris & Alim, 2014, p. 85). CSP encourages teachers to challenge the white hegemonic and heteronormative systems in society, while embracing and expanding upon students’ cultural and linguistic identities and skills. Critical language awareness is, in part, a pedagogical framework that brings awareness to the socially-constructed nature of language, involving language ideologies, language variation, and other critical aspects of sociolinguistics (Clark et al., 1990). The combination of these two frameworks is the foundation for my courses on teaching multilingual learners, which also incorporates a variety of related and complementary concepts that support educators in recognizing the connection between language, power, and race (e.g., Flores & Rosa, 2015; Motha, 2014) and the dynamic linguistic repertoires of multilingual students (e.g., García & Li, 2014; García et al., 2017).

My context and identities are tied to how I approach this work, and my ongoing learning surrounding CSP and CLA. Among my many identities, I am a white, bilingual (English is my first language), (dis)abled woman. I am a teacher educator with specialization in language and literacy education, and a former K-12 language educator. I teach at a mid-sized private university in a metropolitan area with significant linguistic diversity. Despite the necessity of CSP and CLA in teacher education, educators come to my courses with varying degrees of knowledge surrounding these frameworks. Furthermore, as Howard and Rodriguez-Minkoff (2017) note, teachers still struggle with being able to “translate theory into practice” (p. 8). As such, the purpose of this blog post is to reflect upon “entry point” learning opportunities in teacher education for building CSP and CLA related to teaching multilingual learners. I frame these practices across three interrelated constructs that guide my creation of objectives and activities for courses: Learning about Self, Learning about Students, and Learning in Community.

Continue reading

Why is my reflection someone I don’t know? On language, culture, and being a critical applied linguist (by John Wayne N. dela Cruz)

We are all plurilinguals (Piccardo, 2019).

This is a quote from one of my courses in Fall 2020, one that has resonated with me profoundly. It’s a line that I keep hearing in my head, and a lesson that I’ll take with me beyond this course’s online classroom (thanks for that, COVID-19!). For the final course assignment, I decided to take inspiration from this quote: to create a digital collage, and to write a blog post to go with it. Through the digital collage and post, I wish to unpack this quote by asking and responding to the question: if I am a plurilingual, how so and in what ways?

Continue reading