Category Archives: Student Blogs

IT’S A BLESSING, NOT A BURDEN . . . DUH!

Fellow classmates – we back again!!

The combinations of the selected readings were an emotional journey in itself – from an overview of the origins of African American Language (AAL), then to an in-depth analysis of how society views dialects other than “Standard” American English (SAE) as lesser than, to how racist pedagogical and linguistic ideologies have seeped its way into our expectations for immigrants, and students’ who’s at-home language differs from English. Again, what I’ve gathered from the selected readings is that remaining uninformed about linguistic differences and the complexity involved, in my opinion, is a form of avoidance to change.

There were several key points brought up amongst the authors on how to effectively notice racist language, and how to counteract linguistic prejudice within the classroom and beyond. Although somewhat aware that African American Language is linguistically a language of its own with rules and conventions, I must have forgotten about the emotional pain tied to identity and self that is forcibly stripped away from this community (and others alike). Emotions come from lived experiences and personal encounters, and the debate on whether African American Language is an independent form of spoken and written communication is an argument I cannot personally identify with through an emotional standpoint of frustration. But is certainly an argument that I’m willing to become more educated on to initiate my own version of revolutionary pedagogy toward resistance (Baker-Bell, 2). I feel the need to commence my own revolutionary pedagogy of resistance. A resistance where I search for and read about peoples’ lives and personal stories that are opposite of my own, so that I can begin to understand the emotional injustices that define their sole purpose of existing. Or understand the cause they feel an overwhelming need to challenge and fight against in this very lifetime.

In Steven Alvarez’s essay, Official American English is Best, he mentioned a point on immigrant assimilation that supports the white supremacist credo against bilingualism and plurilingualism, ultimately revealing that “U.S citizens should not be inconvenienced with the burden to speak, read, or write in languages that are not English” (Alvarez, 93). I have a problem with the use of the word burden in that sentence to describe how “problematic” assimilation is for American English speakers. The point above speaks volume to Western privilege and ignorance. The point above is a perfect example of a thought process that avoids change. The narrative is twisted within the quote above, like how Baker-Bell noticed the unfortunate patterns of mainstream media outlets portraying the minority victim as the criminalized, aggressor (4). We all hold internal, preconceived prejudices and perceptions about the world around us; however, it becomes an “us” problem (or an “I” problem) when we let our preconceived prejudices turn into tangible frustration, hate, or avoidance. The tangible avoidance here is domination and elimination of all those who don’t speak fluent “Standard” American English.

 The burden to encounter and navigate other languages is funded by ignorance and is absent of empathy. I think back to our class conversation we had after Cindy’s discussion lead on grieving a language that was once spoken within your family lineage, or even household – a concept I’ll never truly grasp but one that hurts my heart. Western society, backed by U.S. History with roots as deep as political imperialism and slavery, has become numb to how attitudes impact family dynamics not of their own race, religion, culture, or language. As if having to mentally translate a Spanish construction sign on your drive to work is much more frustrating than noticing how your mother’s Dominican dialect has lost its cultural flavor over the many years of assimilation or listening to your Nona’s heavy Sicilian accent for the last time because no other family member can speak it with such cultural authenticity.

Also, as an educator, I see so much beauty in language because it’s how we communicate with one another. When your dog’s ears fall flat with a low, monotonous – Roouuff sound, you know he’s sad or lonely. When your baby whimpers around 12 o’ clock and slams their tiny fists on the table, you know they want lunch. I am not comparing the language styles of a baby or a dog to non-native English speakers. Rather, I am proving a point on patience, and physical energy transmission. A dog and a baby don’t know “Standard” American English, but we still comprehend and offer unconditional love. We form our own language of understanding through trial and error. Many people disengage from or ignore other languages because they fear that they may offend their language in attempting to speak it or translate it. I tell myself not to be afraid, because they are humans too, who would probably prefer our attempt of communication rather than looking at them all befuddled. Language of all kinds help create and define the human experience. So, how rude of some to not even attempt to understand or learn more about the other languages that surround them. It’s their loss, though because they will only have effective, meaningful conversations with those who look exactly like them, and that is a very limiting lifestyle. Instead, I’d like to think of this so called “burden” as a wonderful blessing.

Oh – Change, Change, Change . . .

~~~~Anotha week, anotha blog post ~~~

Classmates! I hope all is well with you!

PART 1:

Ahhh ~~ Another chapter from Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by Bell Hooks. One of my favorite readings from this course thus far! In my first blog reaction, on the introduction and first chapter, I talked a lot about Hook’s trauma in learning and academia and the unfairness of it all. I was angry yet inspired by her story of learning as she put her academic oppression into research and action. And, in Chapter 3, we get further insight into Hooks’ research, the seminars held for professors, and her findings and observations from suggesting the idea of changing the curriculum and teaching practices. What I found most interesting was the resistance and lack of appreciation for ethnic minority cultures from academic professors. The unwillingness to accept change in academia seemed absurd to me. I get it – change is scary and uncomfortable. No one likes any form of change because it requires new perspectives, new insights, adjustments to routine, and an overview of processes and patterns.

With change, comes discovery. Unfortunately, many of us fear to discover, because what is found cannot be unseen, and this can refer to literally anyone or anything, and can be taken literally or figuratively. What shocked me most were the many professors who had to “unlearn racism to fully appreciate a democratic-liberal arts learning experience” and their inability “to cope effectively with so much difference” within their classrooms because aren’t educators life-long learners? (Hooks, 39). Isn’t that the very purpose of being an educator? – to do the difficult work of discovery and bestow such knowledge onto the next generation? Isn’t being a life-long learner the teacher’s version of a standard professional oath?

Once I graduated with my Education degree, I became a life-long learner. I pledged (to myself as a future educator) to never become too emotionally attached to any of my beliefs or constructed perceived preconceptions of reality because I’d then be limiting my potential to understand all those who do not live mylife. Everyone has a story, and all stories have an antagonist or some form of an “enemy.” For hook’s, her enemy was the oppressive nature of white supremacy leaking its way into her learning experience. For me, my enemy is my neurodivergent self. Although an enemy of mine, my anxious lens is a hidden strength as well. I think what Hooks has done is commendable – to study the enemy in such a way that helps understand their thinking processes, which to me, is the only way to educate others on how not to become the enemy themselves. Perhaps, that’s why I’m an intellectualizer – trying to understand myself to learn how to effectively cope with life and all the forms of learning that takes place during a human’s lifespan.

Anyway, I hope research on liberal-democratic learning continues within the fields of Education and Writing Studies because the system is broken. For some reason, many students feel they can’t use their authentic voice at school, and I’m referring to both writing and speaking. With that being said, I want to try and answer this quote: “What does it mean when a white female English professor is eager to include a work by Toni Morrison on the syllabus of her course but then teaches that work with out ever making reference to race or ethnicity?” (Hooks, 38). It simply means that this professor shows interest in the idea of diversity but continues to hide behind her veil of truth to avoid discovering the many truths that differ from her own. And, if any student were to ask her, “Why don’t we read more literature from Hispanic, Asian, or any other ethnic authors?” She can pull out her safety net (AKA the syllabus) and point to Toni Morrison’s name and say, “Look! We are!” without really addressing the issue at hand. And, to me – that is the definition of laziness.

Xoxo,

Francesca Di Fabio

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PART 2:

From what I gathered from Tutoring ESL Students: Issues and Options by Muriel Harris and Tony Silva, is that writing tutors (like educators and professors) must do the individual inner work and research to assist diverse learners in their college writing centers. I noticed many similarities between this reading and that of Bell Hooks’, the underlying commonality being adjusting expectations in writing, and to adjust expectations, we need to undergo a process of change. Specifically, by understanding the cultural differences between the composing process of ESL and NES students.

We talk a lot about the importance of voice in this course, as many of our assigned readings reflect the research on this controversial problem area. From reading literature on voice, to attempting to analyze my own voice, I’ve noticed that voice in writing encompasses everything that helps defines us. And it would be silly to say that our ethnicity, race, and cultural upbringing does not help define us? If researchers in Composition and Writing Studies want to argue if the idea of voice in writing even exists, then they should take a good look at the writing struggles of ESL learners, as it has been proven that every culture comes with rhetorical strategies and exceptions in writing. I’d like to put some emphasis on this quote, “With our heightened awareness of multiculturalism, we are also more aware of cultural preferences that are reflected in writing” (Harris and Silva 527). Such cultural preferences, if not understood, can be looked upon as weaknesses rather than just differences, which will only further the damage to the ESL student’s self-esteem.

So, I’m going to bring up the idea of change again. From both readings, I’ve gathered and concluded that learning needs to change. I know for some – many probably, learning has never been an issue. But learning is certainly as issue for American minorities, those from other countries, and those with disabilities. Perhaps, if you do not fall into one of those categories, you’ve never really had to think about all that desperately needs to change within the learning processes of the American Education System. A thought process that avoids change because, in this instance, you never desperately needed change in learning. And, this type of avoidance thinking is not your fault, nor anyone’s fault in particular. There are many topics of injustice that need change, but I could not tell you much about them, simply because those topics are not my story or truth to tell. I’ve never experienced the need of change in many areas of my life. ~~ I suppose change comes with the realization of privileges and advantages in one’s life ~~

Xoxo,

Francesca Di Fabio