As an educator and advocate, I’m continuously looking and listening for opportunities to welcome new voices and experiences as part of what I refer to as edu-storytelling. With so much of our time and energy focused on what’s most important, sometimes we miss opportunities to center on students. Yes, schooling, educators, curriculum, policy, funding, and the like are important, but what about those who are the recipients of the decisions made on their behalf? What I hope the new year brings are fresh perspectives from those directly impacted by the work, the students themselves. Through Language Magazine’s Pass the Mic series, centering on students and edu-storytelling will be the theme for 2023.
As part of literacy education, it’s imperative that we help students tell their own stories, both in writing and orally. Yes, they must be able to compare texts and to analyze the plot, theme, and character traits in them, but how about being able to write about themselves? Being able to see themselves as writers and orators, having those skills developed as part of language education, would be game-changing. I remember years ago, while teaching elementary multilingual learners, I sent students home with disposable cameras to take photos of their communities. They selected images to write about that were later displayed during our school’s art fair. Although photography wasn’t offered formally, it was used as a tool to cultivate language, autonomy, and creativity.
In 2022, PTM highlighted issues such as employment discrimination in ELT (Romney-Schaab), decentering Whiteness (Gerald, Ramjattan, and Stillar), diverse representation in children’s literature (Austin), Indigenous language preservation (Silver), a mother’s perspective (Germain), LGBTQ+ in language education (Trinh), English education in West Africa (Samb), STEM and English language education (de Haan), language policy in the Dominican Republic (Valdez, Rodríguez, and Alvarez), instructional coaching (Cooper), language program models (Cooper), and a homegoing experience (Austin). What will you learn this year? How can we center on students more as part of language learning and beyond? As we teach, support, and guide students in becoming multilingual, multicultural, literate autonomous learners, let’s be sure to affirm their experiences and how to own and tell their stories.
Ayanna Cooper is the editor and curator of Language Magazine’s Pass the Mic series, author of And Justice for ELs; A Leader’s Guide to Creating and Sustaining Equitable School, co-editor of Black Immigrants in the United States; Essays on the Politics of Race, Language and Voice, and co-author of Evaluating ALL Teachers of English learners and students with disabilities: Supporting great teaching, and is currently serving on the Board of Directors for TESOL International Association.