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Affiliate News: February 2010

Affiliate News (October 2009): Plenary Speakers Wow 2009 Conference Attendees at CATESOL Conference

by User Not Found | 11/10/2011
Plenary Speakers Wow 2009 Conference Attendees at CATESOL Conference

Cheryl Alcorn, Publicity Coordinator, 2009 CATESOL Conference Planning Committee and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Pasadena City College

The 40th Annual CATESOL Conference offered three amazing plenary sessions. The conference theme of Whole Learner, Whole Teacher was expounded upon, expanded, and exemplified while the audience was educated, enlightened, and entertained by Drs. Sauceda, Collier, and Brown.

Dr. James Manseau Sauceda, director of the Multicultural Center and professor of communication studies at California State University, Long Beach, opened the conference by silently calling to the four spiritual directions to channel the spirit to nurture the multicultural relationship that is alive in each of us so that we may share it with colleagues and students. Using his own poetry and music, and quotations from African American Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks and renowned actor Edward James Olmos, Sauceda mesmerized his audience and imparted the wisdom that “multicultural root yields multicultural fruit.” At one point, he urged, “Come with me,” and the audience did, with 15 to 20 listeners on their feet ready to follow him down the center aisle of the ballroom before they realized his words were rhetorical. His speech as colorful as his Hawaiian print shirt, his words as elegant as his silver beard and ponytail, Sauceda instructed listeners not to be overwhelmed by the challenges ahead of them as teachers, asked them to “honor culture from the inside,” and encouraged them by saying, “We have the power in this room to transform the United States.” A glimpse perhaps into the lighter side of the man was offered when Sauceda told his spellbound listeners that when he arrived in Memphis for the first time, he had to go to Sun Studios so he could hold Elvis’s microphone. But listeners were again enchanted by his enthusiasm as Sauceda concluded his presentation with a dramatic reading of Maya Angelou’s poem, “Still I Rise.” And then, he checked his cell.

“The average graduate of a language school in the United States is very poorly prepared to work with the type of student they will have in their classroom,” said Dr. Catherine Collier in her plenary speech after the president’s luncheon on Friday, April 17. The ballroom was filled to capacity as she explained that the students are not only linguistically diverse but also culturally diverse and that many have special needs. In addition, it is often difficult to determine whether something that looks like a learning disability is really the normal result of language learning for a transitional learner. Language teachers must use building blocks for success in which the dynamics of continuous problem solving and progress monitoring are constantly engaged. Unable to complete her presentation because of time constraints, Collier encouraged personal contact for those who had specific questions or would like to continue dialogue on this important and timely topic. Her e-mail address is catherine@crosscultured.com.

The conference’s final plenary speaker, Dr. H. Douglas Brown, opened Saturday’s session with a quote particularly timely in view of the date: “A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.” In a brief but thorough historical overview of the ESL’s “founding fathers” (e.g., Krashen, Chomsky, and Eskey) and issues facing CATESOL in 1970 through 2000 and into the coming decade, Brown emphasized the three key areas requiring focus: situated living, alternatives in authentic assessment, and social responsibility.

Situated living pertains to legitimate peripheral participation and is embedded within activity, context, and culture. Authentic assessment is a cylindrical process of diagnosis, treatment, and assessment. Assessment must be intrinsically motivating and use multiple sources. The social responsibilities include a continued effort to influence educational politics and reconsideration of the value of standardized tests as “the ultimate assessment of the student’s attainment.” Brown reported that social responsibility is now a named section within the parent organization TESOL. Through humor and a sense of camaraderie, he explained that teachers must become agents for change while being careful not to allow their ideals to stifle those of their students. The coming decade is truly a challenge for merging the whole student and the whole teacher to produce an improved learning experience for all.

This article is reprinted from the Spring 2009 CATESOL News with permission by CATESOL. The original article can be found at www.catesol.org.