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Statement on 2019 TESOL International Convention

by TESOL International Association | 03/17/2019

The annual TESOL International Convention provides the TESOL community the opportunity to connect, grow professionally, and expand our knowledge and expertise. We do so in recognition of the values that bring us together: professionalism, respect, inquiry, and lifelong learning. That respect is specifically centered on a commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, multilingualism, multiculturalism, and individuals’ language rights. This year’s convention brought our field together in Atlanta, Georgia, USA where these important issues are woven directly into the rich historical and cultural fabric of the city.

Many of us at TESOL International Association think about diversity and culture in a global, geographic context. But we – as an association and as a field - have more to think about. The plenary by Dr. Anneliese Singh at this week’s convention pushed us to reflect, among other things, about being active in fighting oppression because being quiet and doing nothing means accepting mistreatment of others on the grounds of race, ethnicity, nationality, language background, disability, age, religion, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation. We had a situation arise during the convention where a sensitive and relevant issue was raised, but in a way that was not sufficiently sensitive, and thus caused not only offense to many but real pain. And it happened in this city of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights movement, and LGBTQ pride. As an association, we deeply and sincerely apologize to those who were affected.

Apologies alone, however, are not sufficient. We – the TESOL community – must work to strengthen the voices of both students and the committed, hard-working language professionals who have been marginalized. When we make decisions about the association, we must include a broad perspective that includes all diverse voices. All of us have a responsibility to professionally and respectfully stand up for each other.

We are all trying to do what’s best for our learners and our communities, but we each have our own lived experiences, so we need to share perspectives and insights with each other. With that may come discomfort, but that is different from pain. Pain does not help you. Discomfort, on the other hand, can help you get stronger as you work through it and build on it in a positive way.

As an association we know we can do better. We must do better. And we commit to taking action so that we are better moving forward. 

Deborah Healey                Deborah Short               Luciana de Oliveira        Christopher Powers
President                          President-elect              Past President                Executive Director

Inquiries can be directed to Christopher Powers, Executive Director or ​Deborah Healey, President.