At the recent TESOL International Conference in Baltimore, we dove into ideas around Language, Culture, and Identity in roundtable panel discussion in a session created by Dr. Francisco Ramos.
Francisco sent we panelists the questions and guiding quotes to muse ahead of time:
– What factors play roles in the loss of minority languages?
– Is this the reality around us?
– Is it possible to revert this trend?
– Can we save/Is it worth saving each and every language?
– Can culture be taught?
– What is won and and what is lost when we relocate?
– Do we really manage to belong?
o “Acoma is home, but I don’t live there” (Simon Ortiz)
– In order to fit in in a group:
o Do you need both culture and language or is knowledge of culture enough?
– Do we feel/act differently depending on the language(s) we use? Why?
– Can a name change affect/impact who we are?
– “So, what happens when one combines a deep sense of place with a sense of exile within one’s own home?” (Dawn Wink)
Of course, these ideas make my own heart beat wildly. If these ideas interest you, grab a pen and scribble your own thoughts to the guiding questions and quotes. Here is the full PPT created by Francisco: Roundtable_Questions copy.
“There is a reason why the language we inherit at birth is called our mother tongue. It is our mother, forgiving, embracing, naming the world and all its emotions. Though I have lived for the last forty years in cities where English or French is the language of the majority, it’s Bangla that exercises motherly restraint over my provisional, immigrant identity.” ~Bharati Mukherjee
This is an especially poignant quote for all human reasons, and for me at TESOL as my own mom introduced me to TESOL years ago. In the intervening decades, the conference has almost always fallen on the week around our birthdays and we’ve celebrated our birthdays together in various states and convention centers.
Mom shared many stories, including of two young boys from the Congo; Missy and the Most Magnificent Thing in a one-room school house (K-8) in South Dakota, and:
• To break borders, even our own self-imposed borders;
- • To affirm identity;
- • To capture a moment in time;
- • To create our shared heritage;
- • To access language and literacy;
- • To teach.
The human brain favors stories or the narrative form as a primary means of organizing and relating human experience. Stories contain large amounts of valuable information even when the storyteller forgets or invents new details. ~ Leslie Silko, The Turquoise Ledge: A Memoir
This year’s TESOL Conference leaves me amazed on many levels. As I flew back across the states and thought of this year’s conference, I thought of the richness of ideas, the depth of reflection and dedication, the amazing contexts in which people teach, all of our amazing students, and the life stories of so very many of us filled with both beauty and the acute challenges that reflect the human costs of the bureaucratization of education.
Underlying all lies love.
As important as the new ideas, the research, the pedagogy and methodology—is the community, friendship and love that come together during this time. Amidst the presentations, we found each other to catch up on the past year, to hug and share, to walk the harbor and talk about life, to talk about upcoming life decisions when there is no easy answer, to toss out ideas about the future, to connect. We texted, “Where are you?” “Coffee?” “I’ll find you.”
Again and again my students ask, “How can we make it in education? What keeps a teacher going?” I tell them that it is the relationships with other kindred spirits, in-person and in writing through their books and our correspondence, it is the professional/personal community that remind us that we are not alone, that we walk a shared path—it is the friendships, the community, the connections that sustain and enrich. Without these, I cannot imagine I would have made it. I encourage students again and again to stay in touch, create that community, and pour energy into those friendships and into this community. These friendships remind us of what is real, what is important in education, where are heart lies. They are our True North stars.