April 10, 2020
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Jennifer Walsh Marr, BCTEAL, Vancouver, Canada

Backgrounder: Rationale and Process

At the 2018 AGM for the British Columbia Teachers of English as an Additional Language (BCTEAL), a motion was passed to prepare, present, and ratify a bullying and harassment policy statement, with clear language in place in the event of discrimination or harassment by our next AGM. Considering BCTEAL’s various roles and responsibilities, the newly struck Advocacy committee was charged with drafting a policy that would address what to do in case of conflict. In researching peer organizations’ similar policies, however, I felt most were perfunctory or punitive, revealing an opportunity to be and say more as an organization that represents such varied communities and performs a wide range of functions. While admittedly intimidating, here was an opportunity to ‘be all things to all participants’ and position ourselves and our statements in a more proactive, guiding way rather than reductive and reactive.

The Advocacy committee met online several times and drafted the Respectful Interactions Guidelines, which we then took to regional events around the province for face to face feedback sessions with the conference participants. In an attempt to share them with the broader membership, I also prepared an introduction and submitted them to the BCTEAL Newsletter for further comment. The Advocacy committee met again to compile and incorporate the feedback received; the following BCTEAL Respectful Interactions Guidelines were unanimously ratified at the 2019 BCTEAL conference:

BCTEAL Respectful Interactions Guidelines framework

BCTEAL strives to provide a supportive and stimulating environment for professional development and growth for our various members and community affiliations. As such, we aim to foster inclusive, collegial, and respectful interactions and have created the following Respectful Interactions guidelines:

  • Engaging in speaking and questioning in respectful and appropriate ways
  • Considering the implications that your comments or remarks have on others
  • Taking responsibility for your actions
  • Acting in a collegial manner
  • Supporting a dynamic and engaging dialogue

When defining these terms, BCTEAL recognizes and celebrates the diversity within our field and includes the following factors: life experience, cultural background, religious or political affiliation, gender or sexual orientation, physical or health capacity, and employment status. Despite the persistent underlying power differences within society that have privileged certain cultures, languages, genders, abilities, and identities, BCTEAL expects respectful and inclusive interactions. As such, we remind ourselves to make space for the backgrounds and opinions of others, even when they challenge our own. We acknowledge that participants in our community may represent different breadth and depth of experience and expertise and different cultural stances; the principles of humility and openness enhance respectful interactions across differences.

Recognition and exploration of difference can lead to greater insight, empathy, and professional growth; we must insist on respectful interactions in all dealings associated with BCTEAL and when representing the organization when engaging with the larger community.

By joining the Association of BC Teachers of English as an Additional Language as a conference delegate or presenter, as a member of the Board of Directors, as a contractual or regular employee, or for any other online or in-person event, you agree to abide by and support our Respectful Interactions guidelines.

Conflict is a reality, and positive engagement with it can generate deeper understanding and respect. Dismissing the differences and the importance of those differences can unintentionally lead to hurt feelings, silencing, bullying, and even harassment. This undermines the principles of inclusion and growth BCTEAL seeks to foster and, therefore, cannot be condoned through our inaction. BC TEAL is committed to the formative growth of the membership through feedback through respectful interactions. Those who fail to respect and enact these guidelines may be asked to leave the event and membership and may be prevented from participating in future BCTEAL associated activities.

Looking ahead: Operationalizing and expanding our focus

As is, the Respectful Interactions Guidelines do not have formal or internalized support in the form of implementation and enforcement; this is our next scope of work. We put out a call for proposals for implementing the RIGs, with an explicit criterion that such an initiative would be to build capacity in our organization as a whole, moving from policy to culture. In a move away from “one and done” workshops that rarely make a lasting impact, we are currently reviewing a plan to have a series of sessions that produce sustainable resources and artifacts to archive, refer to, and build upon as our association continues to support EAL in British Columbia. As this may be a significant expenditure, we need to prioritize the sustainability of monitoring and supporting the guidelines within and by a primarily volunteer-run organization.

Jennifer Walsh Marr teaches academic writing and discourse analysis at UBC Vantage College, a first year program offering embedded, disciplinary English language support. Her research and writing have focused on multilingual students’ identity formation shifts in transitional and transformative contexts, on intercultural learning and teaching, and SFL informed pedagogy for paraphrasing. She is the 1st VP of BCTEAL and chair of the Advocacy committee. She has the unfair advantage of working with the following exceptionally talented, organized and passionate Advocacy committee members: Amea Wilbur, Beth Konomoto, Diana Jeffries, Indi Kaur, and Sara Yuen to draft policy and take on many of the world’s problems.


With content from BCTEAL newsletter


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