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Discourse Analysis: Differentiated Instruction, Multicultural Education… Not Welcome Here

So my professor admonished me to change my blog title because it seems too targeted.  After reading these chapters, I stand behind my title!  Chapter 7, which is titled Discourse Analysis, highlights ELLs or better yet their exclusion.  Discourse analysis focuses on people and their community.  Thus, to understand sense-making in language it is necessary to understand the ways in which language is embedded in society and social institutions such as families and schools (Gee, 2012).  Although my brother had taken English in Haiti, he felt that he could benefit from night classes at the high school.  I remember seeing an assignment which called for writing sentences.  He had used the correct grammar however he had not used some words in the appropriate context.  He came home upset and could not understand why the teacher had marked the sentences wrong.  True, I know the grammar and the words, but yet I know not how to speak them (Gee, 2012).  That statement was made by Dracula who realizes that words alone aren’t enough to be part of a social circle.

It took me so long to speak English with confidence.  I knew the words but I did not know how to really put them together.  I stayed silent for a long time.  Dracula says, “…a stranger in a strange land,” I was in a strange land with strange primary Discourses.  When I look at our little African-American girl Leona from Chapter 8, I’m reminded of Alex Haley’s Roots.  She comes from a rich culture that influenced her to the point that she can take it to school.  She talks about her family’s tales in the same way that Alex Haley got to know his history.  Yes, my title is still appropriate because Leona would be considered SEL and we see how her story is swept under the rug.  She is made to feel insignificant because her primary Discourse is different and therefore makes her secondary Discourse different.  ELLs and SELs are society’s stepchild.  There is an apparent movement that is on the prowl to wipe out anything that is different.  Leona doesn’t fit in mainstream culture.  Mainstream culture was established by the very people who perpetuate it and there are only a handful of people that can really fit in that culture.  Leona-though only seven years old-is very much part of a specific cultural tradition of sense-making, a tradition rooted in African-American history in the United States and Africa (Gee, 2012).

I remember being interviewed for my first teaching position in 2005.  The interviewer asked me about Differentiated Instruction.  I had no clue.  She was nice enough to explain it to me; I still didn’t get it.  I wasn’t an Education major.  Today, I know what Differentiated Instruction is as well as Multicultural Education.  However, too often teachers aren’t prepared to teach the students who sit in their classes.  Other times, they may not care because their trainer didn’t care.  In the readings from Chapters 7 through 10, I heard a loud voice telling me that any primary Discourse that is contrary to the mainstream primary Discourse is not accepted.  There are some of us that were raised to not look into our elders eyes.  There are some of us that were raised to not be heard and only seen.  I realize that we are the transplants, however there should be some allowances made for our diversity.

References

Gee, J. P. (2012). Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in discourses.  New York: Routledge.

Simmons, Ronald D., Jr. (2009). The efficacy of Florida’s approach to in-service english speakers of other languages (ESOL) teacher training programs. Florida Journal of Educational Administration & Policy, 2(2), 112-126.

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