SCET Journal 2020/2021

« Language Matters

also tends to focus on how to eliminate either the apparent achievement gap for the learners or to reform the way teachers view skills among their mul- tilingual learners. Citing experiences as expressed by the affected multilingual learners themselves is valued among teachers and researchers (Han- sen-Thomas, et al, 2020; Martinez, 2018; Korne, 2020; Souto-Manning, 2016), but the focus has been primarily on classroom strategies for teachers to reduce the achievement gap. Less has been shared, however, from the voices of multilingual learners who are highly successful academically, those who are sometimes seen as an exception since they cannot be defined by the seemingly ubiquitous achievement gap. The participants in this study present a some- what unique opportunity to investigate the dynamics of multilingual learning from a perspective that does not originate from a deficit view but does center on how the students view themselves and their high school experiences. Engaging in a reflective journey of the participants’ literacy instruction experiences could provide insight into experiences that were especially helpful in building their academic success as well as their abilities to navigate a predominantly White school population. Why Narrative Voice? Narrative inquiry seeks to center the voices of the people experiencing the phenomenon in question. Advocates of narrative inquiry emphasize its ability to explain events or movements within a culture through the voices and the stories of those affected by that culture. Listening to the voices of those impacted by policies builds empathy and can set a path toward positive social change, if those in power consider the voices of those who are traditionally marginalized. This possibility for positive social change fuels the narrative researcher’s desire to amplify the voices of those often disregarded in educational research (Chase, 2005; Clandinin, Pushor, Orr, 2007; Connor, 2006; Milner, 2007). Listening to the voices of students can help school policymakers attend to the needs of the population they serve. When those voices come from students typically labeled from deficit viewpoints, as demon- strated by the language choices in the opening example, the research becomes especially mean- ingful in that it can foreground the words, feelings,

and perspectives of those who are routinely labeled as students in precarious academic situations. In my attempt to be as true to my participants’ voices as possible, I include as many direct quotations from my participants as I can, foregrounding their words, so that their stories are centered and amplified. Why these Students? Just a few days in class with Andi, Roxanne, and Emily taught me that they were intelligent young wom- en, keen observers, who noticed details and made insightful comments beyond what was typical for 17-year-olds. Long before I knew about their families or their test scores, these young women presented powerful and intellectual voices in my AP English Language class, and I knew that I needed to listen to those voices and learn. My Positionality I taught the three participants in three different courses: AP English Language and Composition during their junior year, and English 101/102 in their senior year (a dual enrollment course). As a 25-year veteran teacher at the school they attended, I am an insider of the institution, which allowed me to see the participants’ friendship develop and granted me academic information about these students. I have a friendly relationship with the participants, who reg- ularly stopped by my room to chat if they weren’t in class that semester. As a White heterosexual female, I am a member of the dominant culture and an outsid- er when it comes to negotiating different languages and cultures. I do not know what they experience as young women of color, and Andi and Roxanne have the additional challenge of practicing a religion differ- ent from the dominant culture, which itself constitutes hegemonic status in the community. Andi wears a hijab, so her religious difference from the majority is visibly on display. I share a similar history in that I was a first-generation college student, as they are, but also, as their former teacher, I used to exert a signif- icant amount of power over them, and while I am no longer their teacher, they will likely still perceive me as someone with power. Methodology Data for this article comes from a semi-structured interview with two participants a few days before their

South Carolina English Teacher



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