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

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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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Does my voice whiten me or not? A reflection on the instability of race and accent (by Vijay Ramjattan)

Guest blogger Vijay Ramjattan is a PhD candidate at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, a division of the University of Toronto. His research interests lie at the intersection of language and race as these relate to the experiences of marginalized people in the workplace. These interests are exemplified by his MA research examining the professional microaggressions experienced by racialized English language teachers and his doctoral work on the racialization of accents found in the communicative labour of international teaching assistants.

My parents make fun of how I pronounce the word “water.” When I pronounce this word, the /t/ sounds more like a /d/ (what linguists refer to as flapping) and the second syllable is unstressed. In contrast, my parents, who were born in Trinidad, pronounce “water” as “wata.” For them, the way that I pronounce this word is a result of being born and raised in Canada and thus having a so-called Canadian accent. However, according to my parents, a Canadian accent is a metonym for something else. In fact, when they comment on how I sound Canadian, my parents are actually remarking on how I sound white. That is, they usually connect my speech to that of people in the Canadian media, who are mostly white and identify as Canadian.

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Seeking enwhitenment: Reflections on a year of being a “typical Canadian” (by Stephen Davis)

My first year in Montréal, Québec, has been full of learning and adventure.  My coursework in the Master of Arts in Second Language Education program at McGill University has expanded my knowledge of the developmental stages of language acquisition, the types of corrective feedback most conducive to students’ learning, and how to think critically about the social contexts surrounding second language education today.  Beyond the classroom, I’ve prepared for my thesis research, improved my snowshoeing abilities, and have thus far evaded the clutches of death whilst navigating Montréal’s bike paths.  But perhaps the most interesting lesson this city has taught me came in the form of a self-discovery.  This year, I learned that I am a “typical Canadian.” Continue reading

Problematizing My Identity in the Context of Colonization (by Kristine Sudbeck)

Kristine Sudbeck is a doctoral candidate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is currently solo.jpegcompleting her dissertation, which is a critical autoethnography of her experiences learning Ho-Chunk and Omaha– two languages indigenous to what is now considered the United States. Much of her work critically examines the role of equity in schooling experiences, crossing lines of difference on a variety of reified social categories. She also serves as a mentor for graduate students in the Indigenous Roots Teacher Education Program at her university.  

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