Q and A Answers 8/11/20

Brief answers to Q and A from Decentering Whiteness in ELT Presentation for the IATEFL ESOL SIG.

03:50 PM

Do you have any ideas or suggestions for how we should think about the balance between (1) preparing our students to operate in a world that will perceive them as more or less competent speakers of English based on their identity and (2) actually trying to shift the construction of the “competent speaker” through the way we teach?

  1. They know!
  2. Provide them with models of competent speakers with much more varied examples in your chosen texts and media.

03:51 PM

How can we honour & respect learners’ first languages within the classroom? I’ve experienced learners expressing shame over their L1 in putting English on a pedestal

Bring the language in! Ask them to share how a particular idea is communicated in their language, for example.

03:44 PM

When assembling panels or doing desk research (to find diverse citations) or other times where one of your goals is diversity itself, how do you avoid tokenism or “diversity theater”?

As I mentioned during the presentation, look at what their goals are. No use in bringing in a racialized scholar who upholds the system. Bring in several people/scholars whose work challenges the status quo.

03:45 PM

You mentioned hiring practices that exclude teachers whose first language isn’t English: people at TESOL several years ago did pull together a session that examined that issue in the context of Critical Race Theory – how/has that work moved forward, do we know, in the past decade?

This is a hilarious question! TESOL actually following through on race? This is funny! Thank you!

03:45 PM

Well. how this ‘whiteness’ and the supremacy of the ‘white world’ can be balanced?

Not sure I quite understand, but I understand this to mean that whiteness is indeed supreme right now, so how do we challenge it while it rules? My answer is this fight won’t be over anytime soon.

03:46 PM

do you have any thoughts about “white” accent and /or white academic speech patterns in ELL?

Said above, but use different examples alongside the “standardized.” Ensure that they have a choice in models.

03:47 PM

The language of commerce globally seems to be English. I think it’s important to tell students that accent is not important, but being understood when speaking is. Accent really doesn’t matter?

Surely accent matters but they know this already. It’s more that I would emphasize that the lack of understanding is on the part of the listener and frame it as, many people in (location) say (words) in a particular way, so they might not be used to someone saying things differently. Then they have agency in choosing to mimic or not.

03:47 PM

In the UK we’re expected by the government to actively promote ‘British Values’ (values that my colleagues would actually call Human Values, but we have to call them British Vs!). In other words, mould our Ss to adopt Britishness (as recognised by white politicians)


03:47 PM

As a white ESOL instructor (higher ed), I am looking for practical activities for decentralizing whiteness in the classroom. Any suggestions?

In terms of your teaching practice past or present, what is the most important way you would say you de-center whiteness in the classroom? Is it curriculum, is it being educated around being anti-racist or multicultural? How do we (as white ppl) do this without tokenizing?
Also I know this is my work to do but direction would be more than helpful.

What pedagogy are you personally using in class for language acquisition that focuses on decentering whiteness?

I’m combining these. I don’t currently teach ELT, but I think, to decenter, you need to go outside the box. I used Stevie Wonder to teach word stress and prosody. I used poetry to teach rhyming/vowel sounds. You can use youtube videos of any prominent person as an example of authentic speech. You don’t even have to call attention to it.

03:50 PM

If you were to go back to your first days in Korea with the awareness/knowledge you have now, what would you do differently?


Don’t be afraid to call out the racist white teachers.

03:44 PM

What are your thoughts on microaggressions?

Poorly understood! The “micro-” means interpersonal, not “small.” Like “microeconomics.” As such, they’re hard to use as a teaching tool. But they’re traumatic all the same.

03:47 PM

I think that it is not possible to decenter whiteness without also tackling native-speakerinsm.


03:49 PM

How do we teach “Standard English” grammar when Standard English is such a problematic white supremacist notion, but assessments ar

Frame it. Call it “standardized,” say these are what the dominant group has chosen, give them options, help them use it to challenge the dominance.

03:55 PM

would you say that a shift away from neo-liberalism and back towards humanism would be a step towards de-centering whiteness?

Absolutely so.

I’ll write more of these up anytime I’m asked questions in a presentation or any other such format!

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