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Literacies- First Post

kayari's picture

Discussing language use particularly in the public education setting, I never feel fully comfortable with how I speak and my interaction with language within the classroom. This is relevant both for my method of speech in the classroom in college and also how I speak to students in the public school classrooms I work in. We all code-switch, speaking differently at work than to our friends than in the classroom. We learn in the classroom, as Lemke discusses, Standard English or “correct” or “proper” English as dictated by the dominant group in power and their normal speech patterns. Lemke pushes this concept to say that Standard English could be called Corporate English because not many if any people actually use this specific form of English in day to day life. In school students speak a variety of dialects of English, but are told that only is correct and are even graded on their ability to master Standard English. I struggle with speaking in a less formal way to students, which is something that I think puts myself and my students at ease, yet I worry about setting a “bad example” for later moments in which they are scrutinized over their method of speech. Working in almost 100% working-class African-American public schools, I constantly think about language and the way students use and interact with language in the classroom. I hear teachers make fun of and imitate students’ method of speech and constantly correct their students. I also see and feel the trust and respect students give to me when I speak in a form of English they feel more comfortable with. I find myself teetering, doing a balancing act, between my method of speech (which varies per setting), my students’ method of speech, the teachers’ method of speech, and this constant hum of academic/analytical/ theoretical English that very few understand. Lemke states students’ modes of speaking reflect “the culture, attitudes, values and interests of their home communities.” We must integrate these methods of speech into the classroom, legitimize students’ outside/ home experiences in the classroom. There is power in language and it is refreshing and exciting to see English dialects that are stigmatized survive and evolve for generations.


alesnick's picture

"there is power in language"

I appreciate this complex evocation of context and pressure.  What could help you and others experience greater confidence/trust in your and your students' decisions to move among a range of Englishes?