ESL/EAL/ELL hmmmm moment

Does the ‘S’ in ESL stand for Second or Subsequent?

Does the ‘A’ in EAL stand for Additional or Acquired?

Which term is politically correct? Do they all mean the same thing? Which one should I use? And for goodness’ sake, why do they keep changing the abbreviation?!

EAl lang tree

These are some of the questions that I have asked myself many times since becoming a student in the Faculty of Education. In the past few years, all things ESL/EAL/ELL have become much-discussed topics. As future teachers, we hear “Your classrooms will include high percentages of immigrant students for whom English is not their first language” so often, it is no wonder that this is on our minds! The shifting focus of ‘person-first’ language in regards to students with special needs has made me think about the language we use to define these students who have a language other than English as their first.

Here was the thought that popped into my head last night:

ELL = English Language Learner. But some students who are labelled ‘ELL’ have a proficient command of the English language. Comparatively, many people who are raised with English as their first language do not use it properly. So it seems rather unfair to call students who have a differing mother tongue ‘learners’ of the English language when, really, we are ALL English language learners. 

As a self-proclaimed “Grammar Policewoman” and English enthusiast, I am often drawn to online quizzes with titles such as: “These are 100 vocabulary words that high school graduates of today should know. Do you know them all?” and “Can you recognize these common grammatical/spelling errors?” Admittedly, even I (as someone who prides herself in being knowledgeable about English language in general) learn new vocabulary words and obscure grammatical rules. A native English speaker with university education, even I continue to be an English language learner (and I will never cease to be).

So, my question is: Is “English Language Learner” truly the best phrase to define our students who speak other languages before English? I truly believe that all of my students, and all members of society, are English Language Learners. Labelling only immigrant families as ELLs supports a power imbalance, placing native English speakers, “those who have already learned all there is to learn about English,” above those still learning it.

EAL hello

So… Which term do I prefer?

I can understand why we have stepped away from the term ESL, as it was most often taken to mean “English as a Second Language,” which was an unfair representation of students for whom English was the third, fourth, fifth, or higher language in their repertoire. If we change the ‘S’ to instead stand for Subsequent, however, this abbreviation becomes more open-ended.

I would argue that EAL meaning “English as an Acquired Language” would apply to every English speaker out there, as we all had to acquire English at some point (whether at age 1 or 15).

Personally, I believe that “EAL” (English as an Additional Language) is the most fitting way to describe these students. It places both English and the preceding language(s) in a positive light. The word “Additional” carries the connotation that it was another language added into the student’s repertoire: a plus, a bonus. It does not undermine the primary language; English is not the language of utmost importance, but another addition into an already rich background. It does not state whether English is the second, third, fourth, fifth language the student learned, but merely that it was not the first. It is for these reasons that I will use EAL as my abbreviation of choice when referring to my students who have added English to theDVDir list of spoken languages.

Put into metaphorical terms, EAL refers to a student’s known languages much like a DVD, with English being the Additional or Bonus Features on the disc. You don’t originally buy the DVD for the Bonus Features, you buy it for the movie (the primary or first known language)! But the Bonus Features are there as a surprise, a little extra treat. Similarly, we have to value students’ mother tongues first and foremost, as they are the Main Feature in the child’s linguistic package.

What are your thoughts on the ESL/EAL/ELL debate? Please leave me a comment to let me know!

Until next time,

-KKF

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self comparisons

This is going to sound sort of weird, but the inspiration for this post is an Air Wick product… 

Image

On the back of the can, I noticed that it said, “Gets rid of odour better than previous Air Wick products.” That really made me go “hmmm…” So often, we see the big name brands comparing themselves to their competition, so I think that when brands reflect and improve their previous products, it comes off a lot more sincerely. 

And then I realized… That is what teachers need to do. Rather than comparing ourselves to others, we need to look back on what we’ve done, identify things that could be better next time, and actually put in the time and effort to improve our practice. Then and only then, we can advertise that we are reflective, fresh, humble enough to admit our mistakes, and determined enough to fix them. 

-KKF

challenging common sense

This post will be discussing Kevin K. Kumashiro’s book, Against Common Sense (Revised Edition).

against common senseKumashiro defines common sense as things everyone should know. These things are implicitly taught and learned from experience and exposure to a certain culture, society, institution, family, etc. Hidden curriculum (the things we learn in school that aren’t taught through specific subject area content, ex. raising your hand, lining up to leave the room, etc.) is a form of common sense.

The knowledge of common sense is important to educators because it can be restrictive and oppressive. It is based in tradition, doesn’t allow for new ideas, alternative perspectives or variety. Common sense can also privilege some, while marginalizing others. Common sense prevents people from questioning norms – why would we need to question something that “just makes sense”? We have always done something a certain way, and that way is always regarded as correct, so we have no need to think of other ways in which it could be done. For example, students sit in desks while the teacher stands at the front of the room, and this is seen as a traditional classroom set up which no one challenges.

Creating teachers that challenge common sense is a huge goal of the Faculty of Education. The school system I grew up in prompted students to know the answers to questions, but future teachers are encouraged to ask questions which they often don’t know the answer to, or may not be able to answer at all. I think this semester will involve a lot of asking, “Why do we do things this way?” and “Why do we think like this?” To be a successfully reflective teacher, you must constantly be asking yourself why your classroom and lessons are set up the way they are, and consider ways in which they could be altered in order to be more universally accessible.

desk

This reading has opened up my eyes to the possibility of having a desk-less classroom (as common sense tells us that a classroom must have desks in it). What do you think are the pros and cons to desks vs. a different seating set up, such as tables, or floor cushions? Let me know what YOU think!

-KKF

P.S. Here is a link to the full Kumashiro text.

liposuction for cartoons?

Strangely enough, this thought came to me when I was brushing my teeth this morning…

Is it just me, or are cartoons getting skinnier as time goes by?

The first example I thought of was My Little Pony. I grew up on these little horse toys, and I don’t know exactly why, but I always found comfort in their full, curvy hips and thighs. These are the My Little Ponies I remember…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And then when my sister was nearing the end of her toy days, the My Little Ponies got a revamping and looked like this…

my little pony in between

I was shocked and a little disappointed when I saw the My Little Ponies that this generation’s young girls have…

my little pony now

So, obviously the ponies have seen quite a makeover since I was a little girl. Is it merely a fresh depiction of these long-time favourite toys, and I am mourning the passing of my childhood? Or have these ponies become a thinner version of themselves for a reason?

Let’s take a look at some of the other examples of slimmed down characters that I could think of…

Pikachu from Pokemon

pikachu thenpikachu now

Strawberry Shortcake

strawberry shortcake then and now

Have children’s toys and cartoons become just another of the countless ways that body image is portrayed in our society? Or is this an attempt to get all of the overweight children (of which the numbers, we all know, are startlingly high compared to a generation ago) to live healthier lifestyles?

Can you think of any other examples? What do you think the reason behind this transformation is? And do you think it is a good thing or a bad thing? Please chime in and share your thoughts!

bits and bobs

Hi loyal blog readers or any newcomers who have just stopped by for the first time!

I have been saving up a list of things to chat about and finally got around to it! So brace yourself for a bunch of totally unrelated items that have crossed my mind since I last posted. Warning: LONG POST!

1. A little preamble: I am currently working at the Affinity Credit Union in my hometown this summer (more about this under item #3)- and I LOVE it! All the staff there are unbelievably friendly, welcoming, and all-around nice people! That’s what makes it so easy to go to work every day.

Anyways… One day, one of my co-workers (let’s call her Rachel) mentioned that a member (let’s call her Miranda) told her she got a job interview at a financial institution. Rachel noted what a friendly young girl Miranda is, but said she almost wanted to tell Miranda to take her lip ring out for her interview, otherwise she surely wouldn’t get it.

This encounter made me, as my ECS prof would be proud to hear, go “Hmmm…” And not in regards to what Rachel said, because I can agree that she’s right: people don’t associate piercings with professionalism. And THAT is what made me go “Hmm…” Why does society automatically look down on individuals that have rainbow-coloured hair, dark makeup or piercings (and I can’t lie, I myself do this because it is so far from my personal style, not to mention piercings make me cringe because of my intense fear of needles – haha)?

All of the labels like ’emo’ and ‘goth’ have given society as a whole a negative view on people who sport these personal style choices. When you think about it, it’s a bit silly to think of people as unsuitable for a job simply because of a nose ring or their purple hair. It’s like not hiring me because I chose to wear a necklace that day, or a green shirt.

These choices have no effect whatsoever on how hardworking, trustworthy, etc, etc, etc a potential employee is. And just because hair dye and eyebrow rings didn’t exist ‘back in the day’ we think that they are inappropriate for a job interview? That, my friends, seems just a little bit wrong. If I choose to keep my hair brown and my face unpierced, that is my choice, but it doesn’t make me better suited for a job than someone who didn’t choose the same. I wouldn’t want to get a job based on that fact. And we shouldn’t expect people to change their appearances in order to be accepted. I am not going to dye my hair blonde and start wearing lipstick to get a job. And someone with green hair and a tongue ring probably doesn’t want to have to change their appearance, either!

What do you think? Why does society have such a bad view of piercings, dyed hair, etc?

Note: I can understand having to take your piercings out when it is a safety hazard. For example, I used to work at Subway and employees couldn’t have their facial piercings in while working because they were considered ‘an open wound.’ But in a job outside of the food industry, why does it matter?

2. This item is about a comment I got on my Ten Tree Apparel post (see my last post from May 22, “ten tree gets a zero out of ten from me”) that sparked my thinking in a different way.

I won’t quote anything the commenter said but the gist was: You made a good point until the very last piece where you used the word ‘twig’ to describe the models. Derogatory terms should be eliminated for girls who are slim as well as curvy.

I had to admit, I was a bit disheartened that someone had something that wasn’t purely positive to say about my remarks, but I can also admit that this person was 100% right. While I meant the line “just because your brand is named 10 tree doesn’t mean your models all have to be twigs, because all women aren’t,” to be a play on words with the company name, it truly is derogatory towards thin girls.

It isn’t just the girls that are larger than the models in magazines that are negatively affected by the fashion industry: it is also the slim girls! They get called names like ‘anorexic’ simply for being naturally thin, and that isn’t fair anymore than a girl who can’t help being larger than celebrities on the television. I was frustrated that someone had criticism for my post, but I am glad that this person spoke out and made me realize that I was being a hypocrite in an unintentional way. I won’t turn down a chance to learn and expand my horizons! So thank you, to my critic. You have helped me grow as a person!

Just to finish off, it’s interesting to note that one of the most famous models was named “Twiggy.” It kinda makes you think what the fashion industry is all about and seeking to promote…

3. As I mentioned previously, I am working at Affinity Credit Union as a summer student. I am a Member Services Representative (MSR, or, as most people know us as, tellers) and so far, it is going really well!

And while I really like my summer job, it has also reinforced my passion for education. I can truly say that even after trying out a compelling job, I wouldn’t change my future plans for the world. A couple of people on staff have asked in passing if I will end up working at ACU forever, and I just have to smile because, while I can truly say it’s a desirable work environment in every aspect, nothing can sway me from my plans as a teacher.

It’s especially funny, too, because in the very beginning, I was worried that I would end up liking it so much that it WOULD sway me! haha That’s the honeymoon phase for you, I guess! Don’t worry, though, nothing is stopping this girl from achieving her life long dream of looking out into a crowd of 30 little glowing faces sitting in desks. 🙂

4. One of my coworkers has a young boy who has some learning challenges and struggles with reading. She mentioned one day last week that she was hoping to hire a tutor this summer and I immediately said “Pick me!” because I have tutored a boy the same age for the last two summers and loved it!

Thankfully, she agreed to entrust her son’s precious little mind to me, and I am already super excited to get started! I have been in contact with his homeroom teacher and am going to meet to chat about his needs. I always like to have a little get-together with their teacher to talk about any resources they may suggest, or get activities that the child was working on in class time and could be continued throughout the summer, as well as any general comments or suggestions.

If anyone reading this has any suggestions, I would gladly soak them up, so chime in, please! It would be greatly appreciated! I will hopefully post some of my plans/ideas later on when my schedule is a little more solid, so stay tuned!

5. As a last little, fluffy, feel-good piece, I thought I’d tell a little story of what happened to me just before I sat down to write this post…

I am staying at my grandparents’ house in Saskatoon tonight as I have a 2-day training course here for ACU. We were just coming back from supper and a girl was knocking on their door. After one glance, I realized that I recognized her from a volleyball camp we both attended 4 years ago! I didn’t want to say hi in case she didn’t recognize me (which happens A LOT to me – once I meet you once I won’t forget your face! And I creep a lot of people out because I know who they are, but they don’t know me haha). Fortunately, she recognized me right away and we had a really good chat, which totally made my day!

The whole experience just left me thinking what are the chances that… she was working for Sask party and knocking door-to-door in Saskatoon, she was at my grandparents’ house just as we got home, I just happened to be in town ONLY for tonight because I am working at Affinity and had my training in the city?

It was just one of those moments where you have to take a step back and go… ‘Wow!’ Life is truly so amazing because its twists and turns can work out in such mysterious ways. It makes me so excited to see what life has in store for me behind some crazy twists and turns!

Wishing everyone reading this a blessed day! 🙂

just a little tuesday afternoon thinking…

It seems that every time I come back from my ECS 110 class, I have something I need to get down in words! Not only does that class make me think while I am there, but I also catch myself noticing things throughout my daily life that, as my prof would say, “make me go hmmm…”

I have a couple hmmmm moments that I’d like to address today:

1. I have read or heard that “the field of education is dominated by white, middle-class females” too many times to count. But for some reason, when I saw this familiar statement in our last reading, something just clicked in my head and it said: Hey… Was I unknowingly steered towards this career path because I am a white, middle-class, female? Have my identity, my previous experiences, and society’s views of me slowly pushed me towards being in the Faculty of Education today?

I have to say, this thought made me rather uneasy and troubled! I like to think that I made the decision to pursue this path because I was born to be a teacher. I have always felt a subtle tugging towards teaching and realizing that society may have influenced this decision honestly ticked me off a little bit!

Thinking about it now, people experience this every day (and in much more offensive aspects than a simple nudge in the direction of a career choice). Aboriginal people are automatically assumed by many to be drug or alcohol abusers, Asian students should be exceptionally smart and concerned with school, men should be buff and women petite, etc, etc, etc. The list never ends. And these assumptions can end up steering us away from our own path if we aren’t careful! If you hear from others what you “are” or should be enough times, you have a good chance of becoming it.

Granted, IF society did push me towards a teacher education program, I have nothing but thanks to give! There is no doubt in my mind that I am exactly where I should be in the world. On the other hand, though, I can think of numerous times when I was very subtly persuaded to choose a different career path because, “I am so smart and could do anything, why would I want to bother being a teacher, of all things?” and that clearly didn’t change anything, did it? So I will stick to my opinion that nothing could have stopped me from becoming a teacher, simply because it is my biggest dream and goal. 🙂

2. The second thing that got my mind’s gears turning was a comment a classmate had regarding our discussion about whiteness and white privilege. She noticed that when people are telling stories that involve people of an ethnicity other than Caucasian, they will actually link that person to their race. For example: “I saw a lady fall down in the street, and 3 Chinese women came and helped her up.”

The question she posed was: Why does it matter if the women were Chinese and why does this always end up slipping into our language, presumably unconsciously?

While I agree that these statements are blatantly pointing out the race of the stories’ subjects, and positioning them as ‘other’ to the norm, I can also see the other side of things as well.

If the speaker had just said “women,” I can guess that people will automatically picture these women as white. And while this is a troubling realization, it can’t be blamed, because white people have been systematically placed and understood as the norm.

So… is the speaker actually just trying for accuracy of the story to avoid the listener’s assumption of the subjects as white? Are they trying to portray another race in a positive light (which, I would argue is difficult to fight against, when criminals’ ethnicities are very pointedly acknowledged on the news…)? Or is this a racist act, whether intentional or unintentional?

What do you think? Is this wrong to be linking people with their race, or is it an attempt to get our heads to see someone of a colour other than white?

Just something to think about…

i’ve been thinking…

My ECS 110 professor always prompts us at the beginning of class to share anything “that made us go ‘hmmm…'” and just now, I had a ‘hmmmm… moment’ regarding the new Kinder Eggs for girls.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a girl power kind of girl but this particular marketing choice kind of makes me wonder.

One of my friends told me that she saw a little boy grab one and exclaim to his mom, ‘Wow! They have different toys now!” and his mother quickly squashed his excitement by saying, “You don’t want that.”

I think this is a very contemporary, pertinent issue. Some parents have their children extremely pigeon-holed into the toys, activities and clothes they THINK their child’s gender requires. Little boys can’t play with Barbies and little girls can’t use tools and trucks. Frankly, I think this is ridiculous. Toys are toys. They are offering the amazing educational opportunity of PLAY. What does it matter if your son likes to dress up his dolls if he is learning?

That’s why it makes me leery that the Kinder Eggs are marketed specifically for girls. I am sure there are little boys out there who would love to play with the toys that come inside them just as much as girls.

And on the other side of the argument, not only are these Kinder Eggs stopping boys from buying them because it ‘isn’t a thing boys would like’ but it is also giving a specific view on what girls should like to play with as well.

It was International Women’s Day on Friday and I think the whole point of that is to say that women aren’t just the homemakers anymore. We can do whatever we want and our gender shouldn’t hold us back from success and status. I am sure those Kinder Eggs are full of pink and frills and sugar, spice and everything nice, but what about the girl that wants to grow up and be a carpenter? Or a mechanic? Or the Prime Minister? Sure, girls can live both lives of the mom and the businesswoman, but by only presenting girls with the feminine view, we are telling them that this is what girls do, no questions asked.

And the problem with these Kinder Eggs is that bringing out a line for boys wouldn’t fix anything, it would hold the same double-standard. So let’s break through the notion that there are specific things for girls and boys, because there aren’t. I would like to live in a world where boys playing with dolls and girls wrestling in the dirt aren’t frowned upon or even second-guessed. Let’s give our children and students the opportunity to be whoever they choose!