The Second 2020 Teaching Fellows Session – #MotherTonguesUnited: What Historically Undervalued Languages Teach Us About Freedom

by Marchita Primavera, CLACS MA Candidate

On Saturday, October 10 we had our second session of the Teaching Fellows program where we enjoyed a great discussion and presentation titled #MotherTonguesUnited: What Historically Undervalued Languages Teach Us About Freedom. Led by Kreyòl at NYU instructor professor Wynnie Lamour, it gathered from her background and experience teaching Haitian Kreyòl an understanding of teaching as a tool of protest.

Photo taken in CLACS conference #MotherTonguesUnited: The Importance of the Mother Tongue in Children’s Literature in the Caribbean, posted on instagram

Lamour started the session explaining the concepts of Onè and Respè in order to create a safe space for our discussions. Once we paid our mutual respect, Wynnie explained how she does activism by teaching a historically undervalued language such as Haitian Kreyòl. She explained the process and the reasons why she carefully weaved her path into turning #MotherTonguesUnited: What Historically Undervalued Languages Teach Us About Freedom into a continuing project that is still running. The necessity to create safe spaces for discussions about community and education through language was central to her analysis.

Wynnie also pointed toward how teachers must aid their students in taking up space. Centering their pedagogy on freedom in honest and authentic ways, fosters deep and critical discussions in the classroom. Honesty is important in establishing a base in order for students to feel appreciated and understood. Professor Lamour also emphasized the importance of technology and pointed at resources we could use as pedagogical tools. As an exercise, teachers went into breakout rooms where they exchanged ideas, looked at tools, and enjoyed discussions centering in freedom. Most shared their experiences in the classroom and thought about how to incorporate this new knowledge with students. I engaged in conversation with my group about how history has erased important historical figures such as women, black and indigenous people, and other disadvantaged communities. We used our tools to search for more information that could be useful in constructing curriculum that would help students to learn more about these topics.

Following this, Angela Carreno pointed at library resources that are available to fellows in constructing their curricular projects. Carreno stressed her willingness to aid fellows on this journey and made herself available for questions regarding projects. Having the library service accessible is a very important resource for fellows because it allows them to navigate ideas and conceptualize what they aim to incorporate into their classrooms.

We finished our meeting with a lot of new knowledge and enthusiasm. It was definitely a great thought provoking experience that helped us see education in another light. As part of her presentation, Wynnie Lamour talked about how she uses hashtags in order to spread knowledge. Consequently, you can search on any platform for #MotherTonguesUnited: What Historically Undervalued Languages Teach Us About Freedom and grasp at the ideas that were discussed. If you are curious to know more about this initiative and The Haitian Creole Language Institute of New York’s work, see below a video of the event #MotherTonguesUnited: The Importance of the Mother Tongue in Children’s Literature in the Caribbean. 

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