I have 800 students. I have around 40 students in a class. I have 20 classes who I see for 50 minutes, once every week. Despite this, I want to know my students. I want to give them space to be loud or to be quiet when they feel like it. I want to hear about the things that scare them. I want them to feel safe enough to to be joyful, and enraged. I want them to exchange ideas about how to live happy, live powerfully, live deeply. And I want to be vulnerable enough to learn and mistake and forgive and remember and transcend, and revolutionize right along with them.
I want all of this, but I don’t even think I can memorize each of their names.
Here, I am learner again. I am first-year teacher trembling behind a printed-out lesson plan. So many scraped ideas. I am the lapsed moment where I forget whose voice I’m trying to empower—I am hearing myself too much in the classroom again. All of this pedagogy I keep talking to conference rooms and white faces, yet in the classroom it feels thinner than the paper it was written on.
Its becoming hard to locate myself. I think maybe I stand somewhere between “utter-wackness” and “liberatory education super-facilitator”. But destination probably isn’t a binary. No place from which I’m rising or falling. Only uncomfortable movement, shifting in every direction simultaneously—or numbing stillness, acceptance I can’t allow. I want to know which way I’m headed.
I was looking for lesson plan ideas online, when I stumbled into an article titled Reexamining English Only in the ESL Classroom. You can find the entire paper here: http://www.ncela.gwu.edu/files/rcd/BE019020/Reexamining_English_Only.pdf
Phillipson argues that more recent global roots of commonly held assumptions about English language teaching (ELT) can be traced to British neocolonial policies. He claims that the development of ELT as a profession was itself a direct response to a political imperative. English was seen to be a key component of the infrastructure required for the spread of British neocolonial control and, as such, there was a vast infusion of funding to support the development of ELT in the late 1950s and early 1960s. A conference held
at Makere University in Uganda in 1961 articulated this relationship of dominance and dependence between the developed and developing countries through the ways ELT expertise was to be shared and disseminated.
Five basic tenets emerged from this conference which, according to Phillipson (1992), became an unofficial and yet unchallenged doctrine underlying much ELT work. These tenets are:
€ English is best taught monolingually.
€ The ideal teacher of English is a native speaker.
€ The earlier English is taught, the better the results.
€ The more English is taught, the better the results.
€ If other languages are used too much, standards of English will drop. (p. 185)
Phillipson argues that these tenets have become the cornerstones of the hegemony of English worldwide. Thus, although the roots of monolingual approaches to ESL have been largely obscured, and despite the fact that they are based on arguments which have been challenged by research, they have come to be seen as natural and commonsense.
I think I am beginning to see how I am meant to fit into this picture…
Keep questioning location…