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JPB Gerald - 50th Anniversary NYS TESOL Conference Presenter (2020)
10/28/2020


We asked NYS TESOL 2020 presenters to answer a few questions about the unique times we are living in. Here is what Justin (JPB) shared.

In what ways does your work support, celebrate, and validate multilingual learners’ cultural, racial, and linguistic assets?
By challenging the field’s historical and present-day hegemony and oppression, I hope to clear space for our racialized learners to be more fully supported and not harmed by their participation in English Language education spaces. The field needs to understand that is can either choose to perpetuate whiteness, anti-Blackness, other forms of racism, and linguistic imperialism, or it can fight the harm it has caused. My work seems to shine a light on the damage that has been wrought and pressure the field into developing a greater sense of humanity instead of protecting the status quo.

What advice would you give to teachers of multilingual learners to face and advocate for their students and families during COVID-19 and systemic racism?
Do a deep examination of one’s own relationship to racism and whiteness, understand we are all capable of perpetuating these issues through the choices we make. Seek to provide a space where whiteness is no longer centered and normed. Take note of the discussions colleagues and administrators have and understand the coded, harmful language being used. Ensure that, through this chaos, your students are not forgotten because of the usual exclusion from the minds of those in power. And speak to your students specifically about what they need, and push these messages along to those who will thus be forced to listen.

What impact do you think COVID-19 and racial justice movements will have on TESOL Education?
COVID is harming racialized learners, and marginalized learners, disproportionately. But in the long run, if our field is willing to actually listen, challenge itself, and banish our harmful practices, we have the chance to make TESOL supportive. As of now, it is not, but it could be if it wants to.

The current racial justice moment is not separate from our work. I urge everyone to study sociolinguistics and raciolinguistics to understand why this is the case. If we see the racial justice movement as our own fight – especially if you’re a white teacher! – it stands a much greater chance of making genuine changes for our students and our field.

Ultimately, though, nothing will change without a new version of epistemology and leadership. We need to discard the canon, dispense with the idea that standards are objective and not oppressive, and even question what we consider to be English or a language altogether. We need to remove the shackles from our imagination because these boundaries only hold our students, our colleagues, and our whole field back. And, of course, don’t let Big TESOL stay in whatever century it lives in.

Join JPB Gerald on Friday, November 13th, 2020 at 1:30 pm at the NYS TESOL Virtual Conference.

JPB Gerald is an adult educator and an EdD student at CUNY – Hunter College pursuing a degree in Instructional Leadership. His research and scholarship focuses on the intersection of language education, race, and whiteness.