STUDENT VOICES, STUDENTS’ RIGHT: LANGUAGE USE IN THE COMPOSITION CLASSROOM AND “STUDENTS’ RIGHT TO THEIR OWN LANGUAGE”

This project started with students. When I began working as a graduate student
teaching assistant at Texas State University-San Marcos, I quickly realized that students’
experiences with language had powerful and lasting effects, as the above excerpt from a
student essay shows. For this assignment, I asked students to share past experiences that
shaped their views of education. I choose to start with Andrew’s excerpt because it
highlights many of the struggles nonstandard language users face in American
classrooms. Andrew is painfully aware of his “Mexican accent,” highlighting his feeling
of language panic and his understanding that his language, or the way he uses language,
is not valued in American schools. “Of course” the woman who comes to help him does
not speak his language. Andrew has no expectation of those in power attempting to
communicate with him; he recognizes that communicative responsibility falls squarely, 2
and solely, on him and in English. Further, he sees his nonstandard language use as a
“barrier” to his success in education. Unlike many nonstandard language users, however,
Andrew’s is a story of success. He not only saw the acquisition of Standard American
English (SAE) as a barrier, but as a motivation, and has worked diligently to reach his
goal of attending college. Unfortunately, I more often see nonstandard language users
who remain fearful, confused, and frustrated in American classrooms.
My first teaching assignment was in a Developmental Writing class at Texas State
University-San Marcos in Spring 2011. I was an instructional assistant working alongside
my mentor, Dr. Octavio Pimentel. Of our 25 students, about 80% were English language
learners – students whose first language was not English. In this classroom, several
language groups were represented: Spanish spoken by students from different parts of
Mexico, Venezuela, and El Salvador; African American Vernacular English; several
dialects of American English; and American Sign Language. This group of students
wanted access to the conventions of Standard American English in hopes of gaining
success and opportunity in college.

to download :https://digital.library.txstate.edu/bitstream/handle/10877/4223/CROW-THESIS.pdf?sequence=1

©2012 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED THE AUTHOR(S) AND THE PUBLISHER

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