Deep learning occurs in classrooms that cultivate belonging and provide spaces where students feel seen and safe to engage in uncomfortable conversations. As a language educator, I have devoted most of my teaching career to creating experiences that serve not only as windows into the target culture, but also as mirrors that allow all my students to feel reflected in what they learn. During my childhood in the Dominican Republic and later during my adolescent years in New Jersey, I never felt a true connection to what I was learning. I couldn’t see myself or my experience reflected in the books I was reading; therefore, there were no means through which to find self-affirmation and self-worth. Very early in my career, I pledged to change the narrative in my classroom so that my students would not feel what I felt as a student—that my own experience was not part of the larger human experience.
Register for Yensen’s webinar, Windows, Mirrors, and Sliding Doors: Inclusive Teaching in the Language Classroom, live on March 27th at 7pm.
Language education goes beyond linguistic skills and communicative strategies; we are also responsible for creating an experience that captures the target culture accurately and celebrates its intricacies. Though the theory of windows, mirrors, and sliding doors is a common approach in literacy, it is also applicable to the analysis of authentic resources, comprehensible input, and presentational communication in the language classrooms. Choosing content and/or stories that allow students to see a variety of cultures in a different light promotes empathy and cultural understanding. In addition, it prepares students to interact in complex situations where both language and culture are needed to understand cultural idiosyncrasies. It is also important that stories used in the classroom feature traditionally marginalized voices as characters and protagonists; the language classroom then becomes a source of empowerment for students who can now see themselves in the curriculum.
This workshop will provide a series of strategies on how to incorporate marginalized voices like those of Black, indigenous, Latinx, and Afro-Latino people, as well as women’s voices, into the language curriculum. Participants will hear about opportunities in the curriculum to include “mirrors,” or authentic materials that reflect the experience of marginalized voices within our classrooms. Additionally, we will discuss how our curriculum can serve as a “window” into diverse experiences and how it can provide “sliding doors” for students so they can explore safely and with curiosity.
The driving questions for this workshop are:
- How can teachers tailor their curricula and instructional delivery strategies to include the needs and perspectives of a diverse range of learners in the classroom?
- What organizational and instructional practices can be implemented in the classroom to promote a sense of belonging?
Watch the recoding of Yensen’s webinar, Windows, Mirrors, and Sliding Doors: Inclusive Teaching in the Language Classroom.
By Yensen Sierra Lambert