The following article was written by Bill Isler, President of Carolina TESOL, and generously contributed for publication in the ESL MiniConference Online by East Carolina University's Dr. Lida Cope, Faculty Sponsor of the 2006 TESOL/Applied Linguistics Graduate Students Conference. This year's Conference Coordinator was Mary Dean Jones, ECU graduate student. Thanks to Sarah Pearsall, ECU graduate student, for forwarding the article via e-mail. For more information, please visit the TALGS Web site.
The 3rd Annual TESOL and Linguistics Graduate Students conference took place on February 17th and 18th at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. Fifty-five attendees came to hear a wide variety of presentations that started at 8:15 a.m. There was a break at 10:00 a.m. for a plenary workshop, which was followed up by a lunch break at noon. After lunch, three more rounds of sessions followed, and the conference wrapped up with a general session/discussion forum. The entire day was graced by a heavily laded refreshments table where people gathered and talked during the morning and afternoon coffee breaks.
The range of topics in the conference was amazing:
The Pre-Conference Talk on Friday was given by plenary speaker Dr. Melisa Cahnmann, of the Dept. of Language and Literacy Education of the College of Education at the University of Georgia. Dr. Cahnmann, formerly a bilingual elementary school teacher and coordinator, has written extensively on multicultural education and multilingual classrooms, with special attention to the relationships between language, culture, literacy, and power. In her research, she embraces traditional methods alongside nontraditional, feminist, poetic, narrative and arts-based approaches.
Her presentation, titled Me defiendo en ingles – Defending Oneself and Holding One’s Own: The Study and Use of Metaphor to Understand Bilingualism and Bilingual Education, analyzed poetic language (e.g. metaphor, parody, irony) used by bilingual youth and adults to understand the contradictions and ambiguities involved in the bilingual-bicultural experience of Latinas/os in the U.S. Findings illuminate how creative language play is a means to cope with the tension between language and cultural identities traditionally promoted in school.
Adriane Moser, of Cabarrus County Schools, looked at how children handle anger. She examined the expectations for turning to adults, suppressing anger, and expressing feelings verbally, with a particular focus on how to create socially acceptable behavior. Using animal metaphors both to express and to control anger resulted in tremendous success: putting the dangerous animal of anger into a metaphorical cage.
Who really killed Jon Benet Ramsey? In “Using Discourse Analysis & Psycholinguistics in Criminal Profiling,” Christine Russell (a former prosecuting attorney in Kansas City who is now at the ECU School of Communication) performed discourse analysis on the ransom note found by Mrs. Ramsey. Among other conclusions, there is a suggestion that the writer may have had a bilingual or ESL background…
Are you aware of any communities which need educating – including, perhaps, the legislature? Do you face oppression that prevents needed change? And is any of that oppression internal? Then Theater of the Oppressed (TO), which is designed to invite people to examine others who are antagonists and then role-play constructive interactions, is for you. Dr. Cahnmann’s Saturday workshop was titled “Rehearsing the Revolution: Using ‘Theater of the Oppressed’ to Address Identity and Power in Language Education.” You weren’t even aware how much you needed this, and now you’ve missed it. Shall we bring her back?
Fei Wang, of the State University of New York at Buffalo, examined the assumption that group discussion provides a democratic and effective learning environment for students. There are studies, including her own, which challenge this position. ‘Positioning,’ a term that refers to how people orient themselves and one another in conversation, is inherently complex. It is affected by gender, cultural knowledge, and literacy skills. It coordinates directly with language learning, and not always in positive ways.
In these NCLB times (No Child Left Behind, remember?), developing academic achievement at or above grade level is becoming more and more urgent. In one of the 345 dual language education programs in the U.S. that are doing this, Kathleen Lee of the UNC-CH looked at exactly how evenhandedly the duo of languages in a dual language program are used. She raised the question, indirectly, of whether the precise occasions when English is used in a content course – one in which Spanish was the set language of instruction – might not emphasize English as the language of oppression.
A final general session/discussion forum was led by Dr. Marjorie C. Ringler of ECU – “Taking Action: Differentiating Instruction Using Classroom Action Research.” She noted that our arriving ESL students, who are expected to learn both the language and content, are the fastest growing subgroup in K-12. (Can you spell Adequate Yearly Progress?) Granted, we all operate in positive school environments of collaboration, with supportive administrations, where the oppression of bullying and teasing don’t exist, where all teachers have high expectations, and where there is shared decision-making. Nevertheless, there will still be struggles. Action research is a means of defining issues, collecting and organizing data, developing plans to address issues, taking action, and then reviewing success.
Carolina TESOL provided some financial support for this conference. To determine whether this was worthwhile, we ask: are you afflicted by Cops in the Head? All of you are out there working on Theater of the Oppressed models and issues for your classes now, right? It’s less than a year to the next TALGS conference on February 17, 2007; who knows what will be in store for you next time?
President, Carolina TESOL
North and South Carolina TESOL
2006 ESL MiniConference Online