TESOL and BBE Student Symposium Showcases Intellect and Friendship
A schism sometimes forms when two related but different fields of study develop misconceptions about one another. The Bilingual/Bicultural Education program at Teachers College holds close the idea that speaking multiple languages is indeed a strength, while the Applied Linguistics/Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) program puts particular emphasis on how languages are taught and assessed.
A recent gathering of students in both programs sought to prove the two could work together and debunk the myth that their goals were separate and misaligned. The Second Annual Bilingual/Bicultural Education and Applied Linguistics/TESOL Student Symposium held on May 1, 2015, opened to a collaborative panel from both TESOL and BBE programs.
The first panel, a group of four students from TESOL and BBE, presented their research, “Overcoming Misconceptions: Aligning Goals and Practices of ESL [English as a Second Language] and Bilingual Bicultural Education.”
They noted that tensions between the two programs are less apparent when considering the overlapping similarities. “[The goal] is to teach English and teach language while also valuing other students’ native culture,” said Emily Elkind, a researchers for the panel and TESOL student, when asked about the goals of both programs.
Ms. Elkind said of participating in the study, “It helped me to understand where [BBE students] are coming from and how BBE functions in schools and its challenges.”
Last year’s symposium chair, Natalia Saez, discussed the origins of the symposium. “The two programs thought that there could be common research interests, considering that both programs focus on teaching and learning, maintenance and development of two languages and since there was a sense that the programs weren’t interacting as much as faculty would like, they decided to bridge them by means of this annual symposium,” she wrote in an e-mail.
“The symposium was thought to be — and it is — a great opportunity for students and faculty from both programs to see what people were researching, learn from each other and share ideas,” she wrote.
Ms. Saez said the symposium was designed to be an annual event even in its first year of development and organizers were determined to see it through after receiving widespread support from both programs.
“I think last year’s symposium really did open people’s minds to become familiar with research endeavors in both programs and created an opportunity for networking,” Ms. Saez said.
After being pushed forward by Dr. Patricia Martínez-Álvarez and Dr. Zhaohong Han, a committee of eight students stepped forward to organize the symposium, including the head organizer, Karen Kao, a first year M.A. candidate in the BBE program.
Ms. Kao noted that part of the reason she became involved in the committee was due to her previous encounters with similar conferences and symposiums. “Every time I go to something like this it broadens my horizons,” she said.
Ms. Kao said she was impressed by how passionate students are about their research. “It’s really a personal journey. When people are doing research this is their journey,” Ms. Kao said.
This year, the call for student proposals was extended to New York University and Hunter College for the first time. A student from NYU presented her research on strategies to encourage Chinese English learners to speak more in the classroom, while a panel of students from Hunter College discussed pedagogical strategies for teaching Mandarin.
“I’m glad everybody got to come and share,” said Ms. Kao. She was excited students were able to learn about different aspects of TESOL and Applied Linguistics. “I learned so many things. Every single presentation was enlightening in different aspects.”
The full day symposium, consisting of nine presentations in total, closed with remarks from Catherine Box, Professor in the TESOL K-12 program. She left students with the message that candidates from both programs are responsible for stitching their resources together. “The charge to you is to keep telling your stories to each other. To not just stay in your classroom but to go into the classrooms next door, to the content teachers, bilingual teachers to the TESOL teachers, adult [education] to elementary [education],” she said.
“You are the experts in the classroom that have to come back to me to tell me what’s working and what’s not,” said Professor Box. “That was our first message, that we have more in common than we have separating us. So what do we need to do to bring us together?” she asked.
Professor Box told students that the symposium had two goals: to share their research but also to collaborate casually. “We can come together as academics, but we can come together as friends.”
Nori Kato is a Staff Writer and Office Assistant for the Department of Arts and Humanities. She is also a second year M.A. student in the International Educational Development program at Teachers College.