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  • 1.  The labels we use in our field and how these labels matter

    Posted 6 days ago

    Hello, My TESOL Lounge Community,

    Linked is a preview copy of the article Rai has written for the August issue of TESOL Connections. In this article, Rai looks at the terms and labels we use in the profession, specifically EL vs. MLL.

    We thought this could be a good launch pad for further discussion within my TESOL. TESOL Connections, with this article, was emailed to all members on Monday.

    Check out this article on how we use labels. Reading the article made me think about these questions:

    1. What labels do you use in your district/school? 
    2. How do labels limit? 
    3. How do labels make us have certain expectations and assumptions? 
    4. How do labels affect our students?
    We look forward to your response. Please let us know if you have questions for Rai, the author.

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    Yuliya Summers
    MyTESOL Lounge Coordinator/Volunteer
    TESOL MPC
    United States
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  • 2.  RE: The labels we use in our field and how these labels matter

    Posted 6 days ago
    Labels are great!!  They enable us to identifiy different students with different needs and serve our students appropriately, rather than teach a "one size fits all" approach.  Consider this..

    1. You go to the store and all the bottles, cans, boxes and packages have no labels. How do you know what to buy?
    2. The pharmacist is going to fill your prescription. S/he goes to the shelf and there are 1000 bottles of pills, all looking alike with no labels. So s/he just grabs the first bottle available and gives it to you.
    3. At the gas pump we (in the US) have several options, with prices varying by almost $1.00 a gallon per gallon. Without labels, how would anyone know which gas to buy and how much it was?

    We need to be able to differentiate medicines, foods, products, services...and students. Fixating on the word "label" is easy and trendy lately.  How  should teachers be able to differentiate students, and teach them at their level, without labels? Is it the word "label" you don't like, or the idea of classifying students in order to meet the needs of hundreds, or thousands, of students with limited resources.

    Allison Widmann, MSW, MPP, Certified TESOL

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    Allison Widmann, MSW, MPP, Certified TESOL
    ESL Teacher
    Language and Literacy, LLC
    United States
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  • 3.  RE: The labels we use in our field and how these labels matter

    Posted 5 days ago

    Hi Allison,

    I think there is always going to be tension between labels and reality. In your metaphor, every food in the grocery store has its own label telling what food it is.

    But in schools, we do the opposite giving broad labels to categories of students. The analogy would be more like you go to the grocery store and everything is labeled meat, produce, breads, grains, or spices. All your recipes use the same broad terms. You are forced to act as if pork is the same as shrimp and tomatoes are the same as mushrooms
    in the pharmacy metaphor, this could be disastrous as there are many medicines we label "painkillers" but they cannot be prescribed interchangeably.

    In many states, ESL students are labeled special needs along with kids with physical or learning disabilities. You can see why that might be problematic I hope.

    On the other side, I am often asked if my materials work for ESL or EFL. In the UK, they also have ESOL. I've used some activities in a variety of settings and found them effective. I don't know why I have to label them.

    I thought the article raised some interesting points as well.

    Best,

    Walton



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    Walton Burns
    Freelance Writer
    Senior Editor, Alphabet Publishing
    www.waltonburns.com
    www.alphabetpublishingbooks.com
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  • 4.  RE: The labels we use in our field and how these labels matter

    Posted 5 days ago
    Tangential to this: If we haven't gotten our e-mail copy of Connections, who should we bother about this?

    ---Amy West

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    Amy West
    United States
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  • 5.  RE: The labels we use in our field and how these labels matter

    Posted 3 days ago
    Hi Amy,
    Anyone who is having issues receiving email messages from TESOL can reach out to members@tesol.org. I'll follow up with you by direct email.

    Best regards,

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    Valerie Novick
    Senior Membership Manager
    TESOL International Association
    United States
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  • 6.  RE: The labels we use in our field and how these labels matter

    Posted 3 days ago

    Thank you for this post, Yuliya, and the article, Rai. This continues to be an important topic in TESOL, and in North America, where the default view of learning English as a new language has been based on a monolingually-oriented deficit perspective. This perspective has a long history in the US in particular, where it has persisted in national and state language policies and practices (e.g., the label "Limited English Proficient" encoded in ESSA (also called NCLB) 2000 to represent bilingual education still survives in school district documents), yet this perspective presents different manifestations and nuances globally. These manifestations have been produced within local and regional histories of conquest, colonialism, and migration.

    Speaking from the perspective of research in language education, there is plenty of documentation about the negative impacts of labeling on teachers and their students learning English (as Rai pointed to, in addition to documented harmful impacts on US English-speaking Indigenous and African American students, see for example the court's decision in Martin Luther King School Children v. Ann Arbor, MI Board of Education, 1979). Taking another view, there is research (see Alistair Pennycook and Nancy Hornberger, among many others) documenting the motivations and pitfalls for selecting English (or another "standard world" language) as a medium of instruction in contexts outside the US. The question of "what's in a name" brings to the fore who has the power to name and classify groups of people in a particular context. Labels may help an institution define its philosophy and/or how it will organize its language education programs yet may also obscure students' and teachers' competence. The questions Yuliya asked are a great way to understand what exactly labels do in a particular context, and we can look for "naming" operations that are helpful, as Allison implied. For example, how does understanding of "bilingual" as a continuum (see Hornberger, 2004) help? How does the change from "EL" to "multilingual student" help us in language education to understand our work, ourselves as educators, and our students? I have found it useful to engage international/multilingual students in discussion of this topic, and students appreciate the opportunity to explore meanings and impacts of labels on them.  All best, J



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    Jessie Hutchison Curtis, PhD
    Part Time Faculty, Rutgers English Language Institute
    Chair
    TESOL Research Professional Council
    United States
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  • 7.  RE: The labels we use in our field and how these labels matter

    Posted 5 hours ago
    Hi Jessie, thank you for sharing this research on labels. What a great idea to involve international multilingual students in discussing these issues . I am curious to learn what your students have discussed.



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    Yuliya Summers
    MyTESOL Lounge Coordinator/Volunteer
    TESOL MPC
    United States
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