Lewis, Mark

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  • Publication
    Making Sense Of Language: How Representations Of Language Inform Teachers' Work
    (2019-01-01) Lewis, Mark
    Whether or not we are teachers, all of us must make sense of language. In doing so, we encounter representations of language, implicit or explicit descriptions which shift over time and are always tied to social and political interests. Teachers’ work necessarily depends on these descriptions, which are deeply embedded within their responsibilities to curricula and other structures of schooling through the process of curricularization (Kibler & Valdés, 2016; Valdés, 2015). As they plan and teach within these structures, teachers must somehow reconcile these responsibilities with their students’ developing language practices. This ethnographic, discourse analytic study shows how a bilingual teacher at a K-8 school in Philadelphia made sense of language by recontextualizing representations of language in her planning and instruction. In focusing on these recontextualizations, I provide a model of how language ideologies impact the work of teachers and ultimately present consequences for students (Kroskrity, 2000a; Woolard, 1998). This model situates teachers as part of a wider infrastructure recontextualizing language ideologies, including school curricula, state educational standards, team planning, and online collaboration. Grounded in the problem orientation of educational linguistics, a commitment to address practical issues of language in education (Hornberger, 2001; Spolsky, 1974), I apply this model to explore the consequences of representations of named languages, genre categories, and linguistically typified skills. I first show the great range of planning sources from which these representations can emerge. Then, in the case of English and Spanish, I describe how redundantly distributed models of language separation and language dominance created difficulties for implementing heteroglossic or flexible bilingual pedagogy. I next describe how strict representations of the boundaries of literary genres resulted in diminished opportunities to center student understandings of texts. Lastly, I describe how representations of skills created opportunities to see students as incapable in ways that aligned with raciolinguistic discourses of linguistic deficiency. I close by considering potential practical implications of a language ideological model of teacher planning. At the same time, I argue for preserving an expanded sense of the problem orientation that values work defining problems even when those definitions paint practical solutions as elusive.