Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Writing, Teaching, Language, Landscape, Life

TESOL 2016 – Language, Culture, Identity, and Love


Baltimore Harbor

Baltimore Harbor

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.

BEIS Roundtable

Manka Varghese, Alsu Gilmetdinova, Francisco Ramos, Dawn Wink, Eric Dwyer, Constantine Ioannou

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)

FlagsOf 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. 

With Mom on 27th floor above the Harbor.

With Mom on 27th floor above the Harbor.

Road to Atall School © Joan Wink

Road to Atall School © Joan Wink

This year Mom spoke onBreaking Borders with Stories: Birth to Death.” I was thrilled to be asked to introduce Mom, as the creator of my own birth story. 

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:

Why Stories

Mom, Baltimore Harbor.

Mom, Baltimore Harbor.

•  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

Sandra Mercuri

Sandra Mercuri

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

Mary Scholl

Mary Scholl

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.”

This is what sustains, this is community, this is as important as any new research or ideas—friendships filled with shared experiences and roots across the miles and years, heart connections.
Francisco & Juliet

Francisco Ramos & Juliet Luther

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.

Already ideas and plans for next year’s conference in Seattle. Here’s to community, language, culture, identity and love!
Dawn taking photo

Doing what I do, taking photos. © Joan Wink

Baltimore Harbor

Baltimore Harbor


Author: Dawn Wink

Dawn Wink is a writer and educator whose work explores the beauty and tensions of language, culture, and place.

20 thoughts on “TESOL 2016 – Language, Culture, Identity, and Love

  1. Pingback: TESOL 2016 – Language, Culture, Identity, and Love — Dawn Wink: Dewdrops – Paul's Courses

  2. Pingback: Baltimore TESOL Convention: Highlights and Learning | Wednesday Seminars

  3. Hey there! It’s so good to hear from you! Lucky you could go to TESOL. May be someday we will meet for the coming one! Have a blessed day! Greetings from Guatemala, City. Central America!

    • Rossanna, what a gift to hear from you! So grateful that you came to TESOL in spirit here. how I would love to return to Guatemala one day. Fingers crossed that this will happen! Abrazos, Dawn

  4. Nice to see your pictures of Baltimore harbor. I leave on Wednesday for one of a half-dozen trips there this year. Look forward to seeing the aquarium, The Walters Art Museum, and the many Irish bars in Fells Point. Jim


    • Dear Jim, what a year you have coming up! I’d love to hear about the aquarium. I’d heard great things, but the days were filled and suddenly, it was time to go. It looks stunning from the outside and I’m sure will be amazing within. Enjoy, enjoy, along with the Art Museum and Irish bars! Enjoy! Dawn

  5. I love this post and the comments. It, of course, has created a multitude of questions and some thoughts about the questions you were asked. Language and place are so integral to who we are and how we experience the world. Looking forward to a great visit with you.

    • Dear Cindy, oh were we speaking your language the entire time! You would’ve loved all and had so very much to share and enrich the conversation. Yes, language and place ARE so integrate to who we are and how we experience the world. So grateful to share the journey and here’s to our next great visit!

  6. Fun to see this on several levels…you, your mom’s connection to the event and the view of the greatly changed since I saw it last, Baltimore Harbor.



    • Dear Kay, I had heard that Baltimore Harbor had changed dramatically and now I know how much this is true. It is simply gorgeous now. Mom and I have been attending TESOL conferences together for 20 years now… I suppose I should’ve included that in the piece! Amazing to experience what has changed and the forever threads that bind the experience. Thinking of you and Margaret with this.

  7. You two are forces to contend with I can see. How great is it to have mother/daughter perspectives too.
    Both of you look beautiful. Thanks for sharing. Love to both of you. Cathy

    • Dear Kay, you highlight something that is such an essential aspect of this and I hadn’t really thought to much about… yes, the mother/daughter perspectives, which add so much to all. So much love to you!! Dawn

  8. This is wonderful, dearest Dawn! Can’t wait to meet your amazing mom.You must be so PROUD of each other! Con muchos smoochos to both of you, Jann

  9. Tell me more about your mother. She sounds most interesting.

  10. Dawn…..I love what you have included about language, culture, identity and love!!!  We returned to SF last night.  But, three weeks ago i was in Montgomery, Alabama teaching a week long nursing NCLEX review class at an all Black college.  What an experience!  Most of my students were single moms with multiple children from multiple fathers. They worked so hard and were so eager to do well and the LOVE in the classroom was so real!  I was the only white woman for miles around and had a marvelous time…I would go back there in a moment.  By the end of the week, I cared deeply about them and they cared about me…..they were so worried about me driving back to Nashville in the rain that they insisted i email them when I arrived.  Now what students who only know faculty for a week are that concerned????  THEN….I returned to Nashville and taught a week at Tennessee State University and my students were from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Belize, Mexico, Romania, Ukraine and Turkey, plus a few from Tennessee.  What a culture, identity and language mixture….and what a rich and marvelous experience!  This is America!  Then, during the week in between, Glen and I were in Vancouver at the Society for Applied Anthropology Conference where 50 nations were represented!  So, reading your words this morning was just what I needed to pull all of these amazing experiences during the past month together.  THANKS! Loved, loved seeing Luke and Channing.  We have known Channing’s father Nishi since he was a very young man in Springfield, Illinois where he and his brother Hamel grew up.  We know Channing’s mother Lisa, and Channing’s grandparents, Harry and Shoba Vakharia.  Hamel, Channing’s uncle, was one of our daughter Heather’s best friends in high school.  He was killed in a horrible car accident right before they all left for college.  Nishi and Channing’s mom, Lisa, lived right down the street from us on Chili Line Road.   So, we watched Channing grow up!  We have lost touch with Lisa, but we are very fond of Nishi and Kimberly.  We had not seen Channing for a long time so I was absolutely thrilled to see her picture. Such fun!  Hard to believe those little Wink-Morans that I taught Sunday School to in the cemetery at Rosario are all grown up…well, almost.    I hope you and Noe are doing well.  We miss you!!Love, Shirlee

    • Dear Shirlee, I loved reading of all of your experiences. Incredible! I felt I was right there in the classroom with you and your students. Thank you for taking the time to share all here. I loved learning of your students in Montgomery and Tennessee State. What a reflection of you and your students that they worried about your arriving home and insisted that you text when you arrived. What a rich, wonderful tapestry of cultures woven together. I loved learning about all. And you know Channing and her parents?! I love when lives overlap and come together. Luke and Channing had a wonderful time. Channing has been one of Wynn’s good friends for years, so yet another overlap. Yes, such fun!
      So grateful for all here and for your taking the time. We miss you, too!!!
      Much love,

  11. Dawn. This!!!! I am going to share this with Greta. And omg, we HAVE to talk! Can I please come to next year’s conference in Seattle??? This just sounds amazing. This is what I want to talk about at Lily Lake. with the land connection part.


    • Will. Yes!!!! Thank you for sharing with Greta. Talk soon! Yes, of course you can come to the conference in Seattle! This year’s conference we expanded on ideas to include Language, Identity, and Culture. Yes, all weaves intimately with the ideas of the land that you and I love. Here’s to Lily Lake!

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