Teaching English for Reconciliation

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Teaching English for Reconciliation by Jan Edwards Dormer and Cheryl Woelk was recently released.  I was pleased to be able to interview them about this progressive approach to language teaching and learning that is concerned with the development of the whole person.

1) Why is reconciliation important in educational contexts?

Learner-centered educators have long realized the importance of holistic teaching – developing the whole person, rather than focusing purely on the transmission of information. Educational endeavors provide us with rich contexts for helping individuals not only to learn specific content (or in the case of ELT, acquire English), but to grow in their understanding of themselves, others, and their relationships.

2) Why is reconciliation important in English language teaching contexts?

In English language learning classrooms, we find environments that are especially well-suited to develop the whole person, including their perspectives, attitudes, and relationships with others. Part of the reason for this is the relational nature of language. Language is learned for the purpose of communication. In English learning classrooms we must consider not only the actual words used, but also when, how and with whom those words are used for specific communicative purposes. Individuals who may have never given much thought to how they build relationships with others must now go below the surface and strive to understand the pragmatics of language use. And the English language is rich with a multitude of ways to soften language, be kind but assertive, concede a point… and a host of other language functions which are a legitimate and needed part of language acquisition. These factors and so many more can make an English language classroom an EXCELLENT place to learn and practice reconciliatory and bridge-building skills!

3) What biblical texts speak to the importance of reconciliation?

Themes of reconciliation are woven throughout the Bible, as writers depict God’s ongoing efforts to restore a right relationship with people. This culminates in Jesus life, death and resurrection through which all are reconciled to God and made one with each other, as described in Ephesians 2:13-19. In  2 Corinthians 5:17-19, our response to this reconciliation is made clear: we are to join in with this “ministry of reconciliation” as ambassadors, reconciled to God and each other.

4) What are some simple ways to nurture spaces for reconciliation in the classroom?

Focusing on building healthy relationships and community in the classroom, drawing awareness to the need for reconciliation by looking at topics discussed in class from a peace and justice lens, practicing and modeling skills for dealing with conflict in life-giving ways, considering how our methods of teaching support a healthy learning community, and connecting our work with larger efforts for restoration of relationships in our contexts are ways that teachers can encourage opportunities for reconciliation. Our framework looks at how we can apply each of these efforts in detail in our classrooms and educational systems.

5) How does the view of the learner and teacher change when teaching for reconciliation?

Learner agency and power becomes a significant part of our consideration. Whether in making decisions about learning, working in groups, or assessing dynamics in the whole class, we see students as individuals with unique personal and collective identities that shape how they interact and communicate with others, thus shaping their language learning. Rather than seeing the teacher as a sole source of knowledge or power in the classroom, the teacher becomes an observer, supporter and coach for students to use their agency in their learning and interactions.

6) What are some practical ways to provide students with opportunities to learn about reconciliation in class?

Our book focuses on exploring reconciliation in an English classroom through systems, methodologies, skills, issues and relationships. All of these can help students to learn about reconciliation. We can have systems in place that are equitable and just. We can use methodologies which provide a voice for everyone in the classroom, and which encourage relationship-building and risk-taking. We can purposefully teach skills of active listening to others, putting ourselves in others’ shoes, and clarifying meanings and understanding. In classes where the teacher can bring in his or her own topics and texts, we can explore issues which can help students learn about individuals who are peace-builders, or situations in need of reconciliation. Finally, the English language classroom should always be about relationships. We should be actively building relationships with each of our students, and should also be paving the way for them to build relationships with each other, in our classrooms.

7) How can the Reconciliatory English Teaching Framework be integrated into existing curriculum? (Many teachers don’t have the freedom to change curriculum)

The framework we suggest has a broad reach. In places where teachers don’t have freedom to change curriculum, there are still some aspects related to curriculum that can be adapted or highlighted. The framework can help guide the choices all teachers make in creating lessons in order to look for possibilities that are there, and be intentional about making decisions in the direction of reconciliation. This includes conducting careful context analysis, choosing collaborative methods to teach curriculum content, highlighting and using conflict resolution and healthy communication skills, framing issues from a peace perspective and prioritizing relationships.

8) Do you have recommendations on how to the Reconciliatory English Teaching Framework can be used in teaching English as a foreign language and international contexts?

We believe that our framework can apply equally well to ESL and EFL contexts, and that it can be used anywhere that English is taught. In any given context, a good English language teacher must first learn the local culture and context well. Then, that understanding should serve as a lens in deciding which elements of reconciliatory teaching would be appropriate and beneficial for the learners. Our book includes stories from many different countries, in both ESL and EFL contexts.

9) Do you have recommendations on how to the Reconciliatory English Teaching Framework can be used in teaching English as a foreign language and international contexts?

We believe that our framework can apply equally well to ESL and EFL contexts, and that it can be used anywhere that English is taught. In any given context, a good English language teacher must first learn the local culture and context well. Then, that understanding should serve as a lens in deciding which elements of reconciliatory teaching would be appropriate and beneficial for the learners. Our book includes stories from many different countries, in both ESL and EFL contexts.

You can order the book from the William Carey Library by following this link.

https://williamcarey.com/products/teaching-english-for-reconciliation?utm_source=Jan&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Dormer

Or you can order from Amazon by following this link.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079YWTHCD/?coliid=I3PWUU5AJJBSFH&colid=2AHPK794CIDOX&psc=0

These are not affiliate links.

____

JanDormer1

Dr. Jan Dormer teaches TESOL in the Messiah College Graduate Program in Education, after many years of teaching English in Indonesia, Brazil and Kenya. She wrote two textbooks in ACSI’s Passport to Adventure EFL Series, and the book What School Leaders Need to Know About English Learning (TESOL International Association, 2016). In addition, she is the author of Teaching English in Missions: Effectiveness and Integrity (2011). She served on the CELEA (Christian English Language Educators Association) Board as Past President.

Cheryl Woelk

Cheryl Woelk is a language instructor and peace educator who currently serves as the head teacher at Connexus language institute and coordinates the Language for Peace project, integrating language and peace education curriculum. Cheryl is active in TESOL International and co-author of the book, “Teaching English for Reconciliation” (forthcoming). She holds a BA in English, a certificate in TEFL, and an MA in Education and Conflict Transformation.
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