Understanding the importance of language diversity in classrooms
One of the classes I’m taking this semester is called Literacy and Language. My class is full of 2nd and 3rd year teaching fellows and from the gate we’ve been having interesting conversations about misconceptions and perhaps even missed opportunities to support our students in developing both the language(s) of their home (generally referred to as a dialect of “standard” English) and the language of school and the workforce (generally referred to as “standard” English). One of the early conversations in the class focused on the desire to teach Black and Latino students what has unfortunately become referred to as “Standard” English. I refuse to call it standard, and have relied on calling it “Professional” English, although even that is a bit misleading in it’s title. Basically the argument is – Are we setting these minority students up for failure if we don’t teach and heavily influence them to use the “standard” English that most of us in the working world have come to understand.
As a Black man I’m a bit conflicted on where I stand with this. On one had there is very distinct way that I communicate when I’m in a professional setting. It’s a guise that I don’t think I have ever really let fall anytime I’m ever with anyone who I consider a work-related acquaintance. Some call it code-switching, at the end of the day I call it my professionalism. However, I’m also fully aware that the moment I’m with a member of my old communities whether it be family, friends, old teammates, frat brothers, I immediately fall into a more relaxed communication style.
I don’t want to get too stuck in the details because in a way they’re unimportant. However what is important is the impromptu conversation I had with a former linguistics student. Part of the way I publicize SkoolHaze is through an ever-growing network of Facebook groups – many of which are education focused. After our first Literacy class session I was really curious what Black Educators/Scholars had to say about… cultural differences in language and how to best use what is known to our students benefit.
I got a lot of great feedback on potential resources which I’ll include in a future post once I’m sure I’ve compiled them all. However the best nugget was a conversation I had with Mario: