Justice, Authenticity, and Identity
Some of us grew up with, and therefore teach, what is referred to as "proper English." However, standard, or "proper English" is in reality, simply white mainstream English grammar and usage. It is only standard or proper for people who grew up speaking it. We need to think about how students who are from backgrounds other than the white mainstream might feel when they hear the term "Proper English?"
Linguistic Justice acknowledges that ALL languages and language forms are beautiful and valuable. Teaching only "proper English" reinforces white power structures and systems.
Linguisitic Justice is a commitment to challenge the belief that there is only one correct way to speak and write and other languages or dialects are substandard.
Linguistic Justice calls on us to change our perspective and to view the way a person naturally communicates as an asset rather than something to be corrected.
Linguistic Justice exposes how, “traditional approaches to language education do not account for the emotional harm, internalized linguistic racism, or consequences these approaches have on Black students sense of self and identity” (Baker-Bell, 2020).
Linguistic Justice “raises awareness of the ways that hierarchies of oppression and exploitation are kinds of inhumane systems that restrict, limit, deny, distort, or destroy individuals’ or groups’ of people access to their full potential” (NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, 2022).
Linguistic Justice is a pledge to teach critical grammar which “encourages students to develop a critical awareness of the variety of choices available to them with regard to micro-level issues in order to empower them and equip them to push against biases based on ‘written’ accents’” (Walkowitz, 2020).
Q. In light of this new knowledge we asked, "Are our current writing practices helping or hurting students?"
A. Requiring people to share their experiences or speak their truth, but if only do it the right way, actually silences them and ignores their identity. It's like saying the real "you" isn't good enough uness "you" express yourself the right way -- or the white way. -- Michael Reynolds (Western Tech student)
A. When a person of color hands you an idea, an article, or a story, don't edit it it to sound like you. Do not whitewash our words to appeal to just one type of demographic. Make space for and amplify all of our voices. Let go of your gatekeeping keys and let us in. Don't erase my fellow BIPOC and don't erase me." - Yolie Contreras (writer)
Editing should help you realize and refine your voice, not erase it.
It seems clear that so long as we do not challenge the “linguistic status quo”--we cannot
claim to be trauma-informed in our Writing Center.
Practices and Commitments: Writing Center (Learning Commons)
In-Person (Individual) Feedback
We ask LOTS of questions–we often spend more time listening than talking
We study the assignment together–we help the student understand the instructor’s expectations
We reflect on their writing together–we help the student determine how their work aligns to expectations
We avoid using judgment and pointing out “mistakes”
We work hard to avoid positioning ourselves as “writing experts”--instead, we view the student as the expert on their own writing
We operate from a mindset of humility and curiosity–we ask questions rather than telling students what they should or shouldn’t do
We offer observations rather than directives–we phrase feedback as an “invitation” to revise
We help students critically reflect on their writing and we empower them to make choices about their own writing
Our ultimate goal is to empower students to strengthen and refine their writing skills—not just “fix” one assignment
Help the student recognize the strengths of their writing--always try to insert multiple positive comments!—these positives can be on ANY aspect of the assignment
Point out areas of concern in the student’s writing or areas where the writing could be strengthened
Obviously, we want to help the student produce higher quality work—that the student is proud of—and that earns them a higher grade—but we want this higher grade to be a reflection of the student’s effort, growth, and choice
Try to critique the writing rather than the writer (i.e. “you seem to have lost focus in this paragraph” vs. “it is a little unclear how this paragraph supports your thesis--how could you make that connection stronger for your reader?”)
As much as possible, avoid comments that come across as if we are the “experts”
Avoid “I” and “you” statements that come across as too directive (“I think you should…” “I’d like to see you…” “You should…”)
Keep comments more “reflective” and less “corrective”
The best feedback leads the writer to an “awakening”—where THEY realize and implement changes based on this new perspective
Ideally, we help the student improve their writing skills and build confidence that they apply to this and all future assignments