I have read, taught, and talked about teaching and learning language for a long time. But when I think about some of the things that my three and one year old children do with the languages they are learning, it seems to me that some of the most prevalent folk wisdom and even some research/theories about multilingual language learners are inadequate.
Discussions among parents about children’s language learning process in bi- or multi-lingual homes always make me feel that parents have various types of anxiety and concern about their bi- or multilingual children. Continue reading
“Candy Mommy, Candy Mommy,” shouted a group of kids as they ran, leaving a billow of dust behind them, toward a woman who seemed to be returning from town. Relatively well-dressed and not carrying a load of grain, grass, or firewood as every other women seemed to at all times, this woman was (as I happened to know) a teacher at a middle school about a mile away at the bottom of the mountain. She had returned from teaching and then shopping for the family.
At first, I thought the children were using the phrase “candy mommy” for teasing the woman. But when she actually took a handful of candies out of her purse and gave them to the children, my curiosity grew. I asked her why they called her with that name. The conversation that I had with Candy Mommy that afternoon blew my mind and it has given me food for thought for the rest of my life. Continue reading
...written for #MakeCycle 1, which is part
of #clmooc, a connected learning course run
by the National Writing Project ...
I grew up in a community where everyone built their own houses and live in one now where no one does. We just pay others for our residences, often until we die.
Luckily, though, I can make my own abode(s) in the digital world, as I am doing this week. I’m moving a blog from a free WordPress site (that had reached about 5000 views) to my own domain and site (where I only used to host a more static, hand-coded website that took forever to make any updates). It feels like I can now “work from home” in the digital world. I’m glad it’s easier to build our digital abodes today.
The idea of constructing, designing, and thinking analytically and rhetorically about one’s digital spaces goes deep into my teaching and scholarship as well. In one way or another, I help all my students to showcase their knowledge and skills, to connect to relevant communities beyond the class, and to contribute to the world of ideas–by making and maintaining their own personal and professional digital spaces.
“Movement”: A Story of my Life & Education
In the winter of 1987, my father decided to take me along with him on a visit to our home country, Nepal. Due to increasing conflict between the government and extremists in India’s northeastern states at the time, traveling across five states and returning safely to the remote little town in the south of Manipur (close to India’s border with Myanmar) was not easy–not to mention traveling with a ten year old. But daddy had with him good documents from local government offices, one of which was a “movement certificate” for me, written by my school’s principal. After a nifty subject line of “Movement Certificate,” it addressed “whom it may concern” and said: “This is to certify that Master Ghanashyam Sharma s/o Gopi Chandra [Sharma], a resident of Tangpizawl Village, Churachandpur District, Manipur, has been a student of this school since 1980.” It went on to request anyone reading it to kindly let me travel to Darjeeling (in the state of West Bengal in India) and return home to Manipur.
This document, as daddy told me before the trip, would serve at least two purposes: first, it was proof that I was his child–one of the things that a foreigner-looking man might have to prove when inevitably hassled by bad cops, of which there seemed many–and, second, it was a clever way of showing them our home address in India. Daddy had better documents of his residency, but they did the disservice of revealing that he was a foreigner (from Nepal), unlike my document, which only said what part of India we were “residents” of, so this would be a good piece of paper to dig out when questioned where we were from and who we were. Darjeeling, I found out, was the “permanent home address” in the school’s record, a reminder that ethnic outsiders needed an outside address. Never mind that 1) the border between India and Nepal is open by treaty and we shouldn’t have to conceal our identities, 2) those who were paid to be good guys protecting the vulnerable were being bad guys (making money, using hatred of outsiders in the name of law and order, etc), and 3) the effect of good guys acting badly can be very damaging to people’s trust in systems of justice and security.
. . . Catching Myself Unconsciously Doing the Same! . . .
At almost every conference, guest speaker event, and wherever some teachers-as-scholars present relatively cutting-edge ideas coming out of their research/scholarship (and often their classrooms), especially if they engage in any theoretical discussion, someone in the audience almost inevitably asks an interesting question. The question is framed in a variety of ways, but it can be generally paraphrased as follows: That was a great presentation, but I am not sure if or how I can take your ideas into my classroom when I go to teach on Monday. For convenience of reference, let us call that question the “What about Monday?” question/phenomenon. Continue reading
That title is really weird, right? So was the experience that I’m about to share here at first–although it started making great sense when I got used to the academic culture that I am in now, after some time.
In a graduate seminar and practicum on teaching college-level writing that I took as an MA student in the US, the professor gave the class a literacy/teaching narrative essay assignment. Most of the writing tasks given by professors in various other courses that I had taken until then were all challenging because I was not used to writing “assignments,” but I had been doing fairly well by starting early and working very hard. This assignment caught me off guard! At first, it sounded much easier to write than all the others that I had done, but I was totally stuck because the “idea” behind it made no sense to me and I couldn’t find anything meaningful to say on the subject. Continue reading
Cultivating Irreverence for Promoting Critical Thinking
Being a “global homeless” person has its own set of advantages! People who grow up and live and work in different places tend not to have a particular bias, defensiveness, or the odd belief in “exceptionalism” about their own country or culture. Of course, some in the mobile category are even more stick-in-the-mud attached to their “original” and grandiose sense of identity. But I bet even such individuals inwardly smile when someone else takes something about “their” home or habit for granted as grand or superior.
Though I was born in Nepal, I grew up in northeastern India (on the border of Myanmar), going to a Catholic school that touted everything British. The indigenous communities of the state absolutely despised having to be a part of India (they wanted to be a separate nation — probably even many different nations — if it was not for heavy presence of the Indian military in every town).
So, when I came “home” to Nepal, after high school, I was shocked by what I heard everyone saying. The country is the size of Tajikistan, but the primary word for describing it in every student essay (no matter what the topic, they started with a sentence about their great nation!), every political speech, every song it seemed to me, was “humongous”–vishaal. (Of course, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if Tajiks think the same about their country). Continue reading
It was the very first week of my teaching at Pinewood English School in Butwal, about 15 years ago. I had just given classwork to my Nursery class and was going around to see how individual students were doing. One little boy, named Ankit, called me: “Sir, here come na.” (he had been a ‘boarder’ for a year, so he already had an impressive range of pidgin English expressions to communicate with). ‘This what?’ he asked, showing me a strange drawing on his notebook that looked like the letter G with three arms added to the right side! I said, “I don’t know.” He looked in my eyes, smiled, and then said, “Tell na!” With me sitting there realizing the difficulty of the situation, Ankit repeated his question for a while, along with strong gestures and the sweet voice of a four year old, “Umm, tell na, sir”! I finally ventured an answer, “That’s nothing”.
Ankit looked at me, smiled very brightly and with a visible sense of gratitude, and said, “E, nothing”! Then he went on to draw the same shape once again, and showed me: “Look, sir, this nothing”!
To this day, I remember Ankit and the 27th alphabetical letter in English that he invented and forced me to name. That has been the most unforgettable moment of respect for the kind of creativity that kids like Ankit demonstrate, which I am often afraid I have inadvertently stifled for 15 years. ‘Am I banking or am I not?’ is a serious question.
Teacher’s Anecdote (Nelta Choutari Jan 09)
When I was in sixth grade (in a Catholic mission school in east India around 1986), an older student who had just failed his high school exam for maybe the fifth time and also broken up with his maybe seventh girlfriend told a group of credulous sixth graders a fantastic story about the computer.
Interestingly, this “true story” was as much about love as about the computer, maybe more! He said that a year or two ago, a hundred or so scientists of the world had gathered in New Delhi to learn more about the universe, the organisms, the society, and so on—from the computer! None of us had actually seen or knew much about the computer till that time, except for the one chapter at the end of our math book that described how the computer uses some common mathematical logic in the form of computing loops. Continue reading