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Headly, Erin 5/24/13 ENDR 559/Efficacy & Advocacy for ELLs Research Paper Unveiling Teacher Privilege in the

ESOL Classroom Throughout history, the English language has been inextricably linked to Whiteness, and by extension, White privilege. Thus, in preparing for a career of teaching English as a second language, I have attempted to unveil my own privileges as a white woman and how they affect my ability to be a culturally responsive teacher. While culturally responsive teaching is important in every classroom, ESOL classrooms are more likely to contain students who are new to the United States or speak very little English at home, throwing cultural differences into harsher relief. As Suhanthie Motha states in Racializing ESOL Teacher Identities in U.S. K-12 Public Schools, it is imperative to recognize that Just as ESOL students ' racial identities are significant to the processes of their socialization into U.S. Schools, so are the racial identities of their teachers (496). Since my first student teaching experience in a ESOL/Bilingual classroom, I have felt uncomfortable about my privilege as a white teacher. Teachers are naturally in a role model position, whether or not they choose to explicitly establish a strict hierarchical relationship with their students. I quickly realized that as a role model for my students, I risked performing the role of the white savior. Because the English language is so closely linked with Whiteness and an oppressive colonial history, this risk increases in an ESOL classroom. However, by drawing on the research of other educators, critical race theory, and my own observations as a student teacher in a 7th grade bilingual classroom, I have come to realize that there is no easy solution to avoid acting based on privileges that we have been socialized to ignore. Culture, by most definitions, is fluid and web-like, at times making it almost impossible to discern. Similarly, racial representations are always in flux and situated in social and historical processes and shaped by discourses that give specific meanings to the ways we see the world, rather than reflecting the notion of objective, stable, and transcendent truths (Kubota et al., 474). This means that rather than concrete actions, the key to becoming a culturally responsive teacher, despite one's privilege, is to develop habits

of mind rooted in honesty and a desire to change the status quo. Issues of race, power, and privilege are most certainly present in the middle school where I am student teaching, which, according to most recent demographic statistics, has a population of 73% Hispanic students and 26% White non-Hispanic, which are mostly Russian. I began researching how my privilege affects my ability to be a culturally responsive teacher by attempting to discern how my middle school students see my white privilege as well as their own privileges. I went about this by writing down implicit and explicit race talk overheard in conversations between students, statements made by my mentor teacher to the students, statements made by students to me, statements made by other teachers to me, and statements made by other teachers during staff meetings. Race talk is discussion that addresses the way race and racism are at play in the world we live in. Because these are issues that white people and people of color often find uncomfortable, race talk is not very common, even in the educational system. In my observations I found that both students and teachers alike often spoke about race or privilege implicitly or indirectly, most likely not even realizing that they were addressing those topics at all. Explicit race talk was less common, usually only occurring when speakers thought that they were among people who shared their opinions. The following are the most powerful examples of implicit and explicit race talk that I heard:
Teacher, were you afraid to come work here, in [town where school is located]? -Student addressing

me Teacher, how do you support yourself if you are not getting paid to work here? -Student addressing me (Student referring to my ability to speak Spanish, despite my appearance) So, what are you? You are lucky to have Miss Headly. She had to learn her Spanish in school. She did not have it spoken at home, like you. She had to work hard.-Mentor Teacher, speaking to whole class If you don't work hard to get good grades, you will be high school dropouts. You will be teen parents. You will be living off the rest of society, using the money of people who work hard like me. - Mentor

Teacher, speaking to whole class What losers. You are such losers.-Mentor Teacher, speaking to whole class, referring to kids who are misbehaving/don't have their materials She could not out of here fast enough. She left behind her lunch, her drink...she ran out of here. And you know why? Because of you. You were terrible. And you know what she is going to say now? She is going to go sub at other schools and tell all the white teachers about how bad those Latino kids in Woodburn are. She is going to say 'Those brown kids in Woodburn were so awful. They are so lazy and disrespectful.' Is that a stereotype you want? I am Latino, and I know I don't want it. -Mentor Teacher, speaking to whole class about their behavior with a substitute teacher These students never bring materials, so I don't require them to bring lots of materials. (when I ask why they don't carry backpacks) Where did you go to school? (I tell her I went to school in a fairly affluent/middle class community in Orange County, CA.) Yeah, I thought so. These kids don't value education in the same way. There is a stigma attached to learning and materials. They hardly carry anything because they can get jumped if they are seen with materials in the community. - Mentor Teacher, speaking to me privately about students

First, the questions that my students asked me indicate that on some level, they are aware of or grappling with the concept of white privilege. They wondered if I was afraid to come work in the town where the school is located because of the high Hispanic population and the reputation it has for gang violence. They have intuited that their town is a place that is too dangerous for white people because there is only a small population of white people who live and work there. Furthermore, my students were surprised to find out that I can work at their school without getting paid. I explained to them that I was using loans from the government to pay for school, but that I would eventually have to pay them back. It shocked them that I would pay so much money for an education, especially to the extent that I would be in debt for several years after graduating. Though I have gotten used to the idea of accruing debt to get an education because most of my peers are in similar situations, I realized that this was a symptom of my privilege. I assume that I will get a job and eventually be able to pay off all my debt.

Due to systematic, institutional oppression that works to keep people of color uneducated and impoverished, my students may not understand my desire for higher education and my confidence in my ability to repay my student loans. Finally, my students' confusion about my ethnic background upon learning that I speak Spanish shows that they do not know many white people who speak Spanish fluently. This may also lead them to conclude that that white people do not take time to familiarize themselves with other aspects of Hispanic culture because it is not valued or powerful. My mentor teacher's comments could cause students to further internalize their own privilege in contrast with mine. First, her statement about how students were lucky to have me as a teacher because I worked hard to learn Spanish devalued their language learning experiences as native speakers. As Musanti and Pence write in Collaboration and Teacher Development: Unpacking Resistance, Constructing Knowledge, and Navigating Identities, Teacher's decision-making and actions are affected by their knowledge about themselves, their interpretations of who and how they are as teachers, and their experiences as learners (75.) Because my mentor teacher is a native Spanish speaker from South America, it is likely that she herself has already internalized the devaluing of her language learning and is now performing it in her classroom. Her calling students losers could also contribute to their internalization of negative racial stereotypes, explicitly reinforcing the notion that they are not valuable or successful in any area of their life. Her use of this word is usually related to poor behavior, such as coming to class without materials. This is somewhat surprising, given that it was she who explained to me that in the school's community there is such a stigma attached to carrying school materials that kids can get jumped if they are even seen carrying a notebook or pencils. She even pointed out that I was taking my experiences as a middle school student in an affluent, white community for granted, reiterating Musanti and Pence's assertions about how teacher experiences inform their practice. However, it seems that although my mentor is aware of students' discomfort with school materials, even taking such measures as not giving students homework so they don't have to take supplies home, this level of understanding does not extend to her classroom management.

The most explicit race talk I heard from my mentor teacher was when she addressed the behavior of one class toward a white substitute teacher. In her comments, she brings up common stereotypes of Latinos, as well as her own beliefs about how white people will respond to poorly behaved Latino students. While she may feel that she is being helpful by giving voice to the stereotypes she herself has felt victimized by, reiterating offensive generalizations in front of middle school students may only cause them to internalize and perform stereotypical behaviors. In addition, her predictions about how the white teacher will react to her experiences with Latino students will shape and reinforce students' conceptions of white privilege and affect their level of comfort with me as their teacher. I used these observations to begin to understand how my students understood my privilege and their own, then reflect on how I could be a more culturally responsive white teacher. What seemed overwhelmingly apparent was that students were receiving negative messages about their own racial identities throughout the school day, not just from my mentor teacher but from others as well. This meant that when they had me as a teacher, I would need to do as much as I could to counteract their feelings of marginalization and otherness and make them feel truly safe, valued, and empowered. For example, I began to be more aware of my affect, making sure to smile and use humor during lessons. I also made a point of regularly asking students how they were doing, and wishing them a good day at the end of class. Most importantly, I regularly used positive reinforcement to motivate students, especially those who were often off-task or acting out. A few students who are used to being sent out of the classroom for misbehaving began to ask me if they could be sent out, instead of doing their work in class. One even said, I am getting an F in the class anyway. What's the point of staying to do my work? In such cases I would respond No, I will not send you out. I want you here. When students asked me why, I said Because if you are not here, I can't help you. I want to help you, and I want you in my class. Students were stunned to hear me say this. Slowly but surely, my small efforts to make the classroom a more comfortable space did pay off, though I imagine I would have seen even more

results if I had started the school year with these students. Students from every class my mentor and I teach now come in to class and ask me excitedly Are you teaching today Miss Headly? They always cheer when I say yes. When I asked them why they like having me as a teacher, they said We like you better because you don't yell at us and treat us like we're little kids, and You just teach better than [the mentor teacher] because you take more time to explain things to us. It is easier for us to understand you. I am heartened by their words and other evidence that they feel safe with me as their teacher. Despite my fears about becoming the white savior, in these attempts to make my classroom a more culturally sustaining space, I kept in mind the advice of one of my professors. He said that even if my students did not have many role models that looked like them, at the end of the day it was better for them to have a white role model than none at all. He said that all I could do, knowing that I was in this position, was to go into class each day and just try to be a good person. However, I know that part of being a good person is constantly reflecting on how my privileges shape my thoughts and actions as a teacher so that I can honor the needs of diverse learners in my ESOL classroom. I have learned that there will never be an easy solution or one-size-fits-all answer to eradicating privileged perceptions and bias in the classroom; it is a challenge that every teacher must navigate through experience. As Kubota and Lin write in Race and TESOL: Introduction to Concepts and Theories, As TESOL practitioners, we should engage in daily critical reflections of how our ideas of race influence what we teach, how we teach it, and how we understand our students. This should be followed by committed action to confront and eradicate overt and covert racisms with an understanding that they are intricately connected with other injustices and that the commitment for action always requires the awareness of our own racial and other privileges that are both relational and situated (488.) While my recent attempts to make my classroom more culturally responsive were more implicit in nature, focusing on raising overall self-confidence and positivity, I recognize the need for more explicit race talk in my teaching. As Gere et al. write in A Visibility Project: Learning to See How Preservice

Teachers Take Up Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, both Whites and people of color too often remain silent about race, even when they are aware of their own resistance to race talk...Our thinking about raceand the silences that surround itis informed by the literature of critical studies of Whiteness, which explains how White identity is shaped by power that is usually ignored or denied (818.) In other words, race talk does not have to be negative, as the examples I included earlier would suggest; in fact, race talk in the classroom can be informative and empowering. Specifically, it has the power to keep white teachers accountable, dispel myths of meritocracy and reaffirm that all students can achieve academic success. I fully intend to address issues of race and racism in my future ESOL classroom. As a white teacher, I know that my silence about such issues is, in effect, my acceptance and perpetuation of oppressive structures that work to make them invisible. Furthermore, Django Paris asserts in Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy: A Needed Change in Stance, Terminology, and Practice that in order to truly nurture and sustain culture and language in the classroom, cultural discourse cannot be colorblind and essentialist in nature. Rather, we must be open to sustaining [languages and cultures] in both the traditional and evolving ways they are lived and used by contemporary young people (95). Taking these words to heart and preparing to begin my career as an ESOL teacher, I know that I will forever strive to create a classroom environment that helps students to recognize, develop, and use the power of their own experiences and voices through meaningful cultural connections.

Works Cited Gere, A.R., et al. (2009). A visibility project: learning to see how preservice teachers take up culturally responsive pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 46 (3). 816-852. Retrieved from Kubota, R. & Lin, A. (2006). Race and TESOL: introduction to concepts and theories. TESOL Quarterly, 40 (3). 471-493. Retrieved from Motha, S. (2006). Racializing ESOL teacher identities in U.S. K-12 public schools. TESOL Quarterly, 40 (3). 495-518. Retrieved from Musanti, S.I. & Pence, L. (2010). Collaboration and teacher development: unpacking resistance, constructing knowledge, and navigating identities. Teacher Education Quarterly. Paris, D. (2012). Culturally sustaining pedagogy: a needed change in stance, terminology, and practice. Educational Researcher, 41 (93). 93-97. Retrieved from