June 2017
TESOLers for Social Responsibility



Dear SRIS Membership,

I feel extremely honored to write this letter as chair of such a vibrant, passionate, and important interest section.

While we are not sure exactly of what changes might come to interest sections (as the board is meeting this season to make decisions), what I do know is this: There has never been a greater need for passionate TESOLers to fight for social justice, positive social change, environmental responsibility, and human rights. Our profession and many of our learners are in need of such a voice, now more than ever.

I am thankful for a strong SRIS Leadership Team. Thank you to Elisabeth Chan, Myles Hoenig, Riah Werner, Anastasia Khawaja, Heidi Faust, Carter Winkle and Kimberly Mitchell. If you would like to be a part of the leadership team in the future, please feel free to reach out and send me a personal email. We would love to have you join us in a capacity that you are comfortable with.

This year, we will be devoting time and energy to organize our efforts “behind the scenes” of the interest section. In order to do that, we need to know who our membership includes and what your areas of expertise and passion are within the umbrella of social responsibility. Please take this survey. (Thank you to those of you who have already taken it!)

If you have ideas for us as we move forward, please share!

Many thanks to Riah Werner and Anastasia Khawaja for working hard on this newsletter!


Laura Jacob

2017–2018 SRIS Chair


Greetings SRIS Membership,

I am proud to serve the association and its membership as one of the two incoming co-chairs of the SRIS of TESOL. I look forward to continuing my work with Chair Laura Jacob and Incoming Co-Chair Heidi Faust—both of whom I hold in high regard and with tremendous respect.

The impetus for my advocacy, service, and scholarship is a deeply held belief in my responsibility to engage in both academic and personal pursuits that serve marginalized populations, promote the public good, and help move us forward toward a more socially just society. I view my leadership role within the SRIS as an opportunity to amplify, exemplify, and engender this stance among my TESOL colleagues, particularly those new to the profession of English language teaching.

As a researcher and teacher educator I have multiple intersecting advocacy interests and foci within the realm of TESOL, yet at the forefront are those involving the marginalization of English language teachers as academic professionals within the academy, as well as issues related to gender and sexual minorities in English language teaching and learning contexts globally.

The coming year will be one of change for the association, in particular related to its organization of interest sections and other member groups. If you have not already done so, I strongly urge you to mindfully select the SRIS as your primary interest section. To do so, log in to the TESOL homepage, and follow these steps:

  1. Once you have logged in, click on the green “MY ACCOUNT” tab near the upper right-hand corner of the page.

  2. Look for the third tab within the first row of tabs, clicking “My Interest Sections & eGroups.”

  3. Click the drop-down menu for “Select Primary Interest Section” and confirm that you have selected “Social Responsibility.”

  4. Don’t forget to save your changes by clicking the orange “Save” button. That’s it!

  5. Now, urge your colleagues to do the same.

Incoming Co-Chair Heidi Faust is busily working toward the completion of her dissertation research, and I know you all join me in wishing her well. She will be reintroducing herself to the SRIS membership in our upcoming September newsletter.

Be well,

Carter A. Winkle, PhD
2017–2018 SRIS Incoming Co-Chair
Associate Professor
Barry University


Anastasia Khawaja

Riah Werner

Hello SRIS!

As your incoming SRIS newsletter editors, we are energized and ready to bring our interest section newsletter to you on a regular basis, and we are already so grateful for the quick response to our recent call for submissions. We couldn’t have a newsletter without all of your inspiring submissions, so thank you for your interest and your ongoing contributions. It is our goal to have at least three more issues before the next TESOL convention in 2018: a September issue, a December issue, and a preconvention March issue.

In this issue, we have letters from our leadership team: new Chair Laura Jacob, our Co-Chair-Elects Carter Winkle and Heidi Faust, and ourselves. In addition, we have a section that details who is on the SRIS leadership team this year for your reference. We are also pleased to bring you four relevant, insightful articles that illustrate some highlights of social responsibility and advocacy at the TESOL 2017 convention in Seattle, Washington, USA.

In the first article, “Reflection on Reading and Rights: Social Responsibility and Text Selection,” Alexandra Guilamo reflects on Sherman Alexie’s TESOL keynote and connects it to a recent classroom observation in which a teacher wanted to use reading material that wasn’t appropriate for her diverse group of students. The second article, “Addressing Linguicism and Its Racial Implications in the Age of Nationalism,” is a reflection by coeditor Riah Werner highlighting the importance of linguicism and race in the classroom. In “Creating Inclusive Classrooms for LGBTQIA Students,” our third article, TESOL presenters Molly Kelley and Andrew Lewis share practical ideas to help teachers create welcoming and inclusive classrooms that prioritize the learning of LGBTQIA students and denormalize homophobia. Finally, TESOL presenter Cathy Raymond discusses the work the Alliance for International Women’s Rights currently conducts in Nepal and Afghanistan to train women educators via Skype. Collectively, these articles showcase the powerful ideas that were exchanged at this year’s convention and provide inspiration for educators who want to create a more equitable world.

If you were not able to submit an article for this issue, please consider submitting one for our September issue on Identity, Inclusion, and Advocacy. You can find our next call for submissions in our Community News Section. For now, we wish you a productive and active summer and look forward to hearing more about how this amazing community of activists and educators continues to create change in our classrooms and communities. Please enjoy our first edition as your editors.


Anastasia Khawaja and Riah Werner



It’s Tuesday evening when I walk into the Washington State Convention Center ballroom at the 2017 TESOL annual convention and notice that I’m sitting next to a couple of fellow TESOLers whom I met during registration. The opportunity to meet others engaged in the work of TESOL is one of my favorite parts about this conference. “Have you ever seen Sherman Alexie speak?” asked my newfound colleague before the opening session. “No,” I admitted. I had read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, but I had never seen the author speak.

“He is amazing. His words are so powerful. One minute you’ll be laughing and then he hits you with a truth that is almost uncomfortable,” she revealed.

It did not take long for me to grasp what she was talking about. I was engrossed in every word he uttered. Listening to his experience as a child growing up on the reservation resonated with me. Doctors had believed that his mother’s intuition could not possibly perceive hydrocephalus in such a small baby, but they were wrong. She may not have been able to put a name to what was wrong, but she sensed it; she knew it. His mother’s beliefs, what she knew about her own child, her experience—all were deemed to be wrong because of her identity, her accent, her zip code. He and his mother had to leave the reservation to get the assistance they needed. They had to leave in order to be heard. It almost cost him his life.

That he had to leave the reservation to be heard struck me intensely, considering my own experiences as a newcomer and language learner. Mr. Alexie is who he is because of his identity and his struggle, but he also had to leave his native context to create opportunities and be heard. As I sat there taking in his story, I started to think about that powerful reality of how language, struggle, and identity work together to create power, opportunities, and oppression. It reminded me of a recent incident in a classroom that caused me much internal struggle.

The classroom was filled with close to thirty 15-year-old monolingual and ESL students—less than ideal. I opened the door to the classroom, smile on my face, notebook ready. It was, after all, one of thousands of classroom visits that I’ve done over the years. I had spent the morning observing instruction, providing targeted feedback, and working with the staff to reach all students in language and literacy achievement. It is my favorite part of my job.

As I entered, I noticed a seat off to the side and briskly moved by a few students who stared at me. “Who is she?” they wondered with their eyes as I stepped past them and settled into the chair.

I sat back and watched the teacher work with students, moving from one and then to the next, working to reengage them, questioning them, determining whether their “heart” was truly in the book they were reading for the lesson that day. I looked, almost automatically, at the walls to observe the reminders and evidence of past learning. I talked with students, asking questions like “What are you reading?”, “What is your goal that you are working on?”, “How will that help you grow your English and grow yourself as a reader?” These are questions that I generally use because they seem to create a natural conversation with students. In fact, these “look fors” were regular staples of most observations and coaching conversations I had with teachers.

These staples had always helped to guide what strengths I could communicate and what goals we might set to move the work forward. As the class came to an end, I thought about how to start the conversation and what would make the most amount of difference for both this teacher’s professional practice and her students’ levels of achievement. However, she started the conversation for me, “These books are terrible; I can’t get them to read. And they don’t care about the read aloud. I tried to get approval to use a few different stories to really get them engaged in reading, but [the stories] didn’t get approved.” She shared this with great frustration.

“Why do you think it wasn’t approved?” I inquired.

“It was a little bit racy. It uses the ‘n-word’ a lot. But it’s not like they don’t hear that anyway. They [the board of education] just focused on that word and didn’t get that it’s a story about a boy who gets messed with by a White kid. A number of things happen, and in the end the White kid needs his help, and the main character decides to help him even though he’s been bullied the whole time. It’s kind of like the movie Crash,” she shared, almost lamenting. “Everyone is so worried about being PC [politically correct]…” she closed, as I worked hard not to visibly cringe.

Looking back at this moment, it now dawns on me the reason I became immediately uneasy. Language and the words we choose are powerful. But much like Sherman Alexie’s message of the powerful interconnection among language, struggle, and identity, I wonder if this teacher even understood her students’ beliefs, their knowledge, and their experience with that historically loaded word. Did she truly see them? My interaction with her students revealed something unlike a group of kids that simply wouldn’t read. The brief conversations I had with them showed me that they had texts they like to read, characters that moved them, and goals for themselves as readers and language users. These students were bright and willing to share of themselves with a stranger, and they had hopes to improve. Yet, the teacher seemed fixed on the deficits and thought that a racy text would be the solution.

I asked her if she thought any of her students might receive or interpret the text differently than she did, having noticed a number of African American and other culturally diverse students in the class, but she was certain they would not mind. We explored the idea that no one would “mind,” and I encouraged her to think about texts that would engage, inspire, empower, and also reinforce the connections among her incredibly diverse students. I also encouraged her to think about how the exchanges in any given text might foster and empower respect between cultures that exist all around her students. Though the conversation ended too soon, and without any lasting change that I’m aware of, it did lead me to wonder. What is teachers’ social responsibility in the texts they choose to embed in the curriculum?

Looking back on that Tuesday evening of the TESOL convention and thinking about language, struggle, and power, I realize that I could have given this teacher concrete strategies she could try to ensure her students were left with a feeling of value and safety. I should have told her the following:

  1. Get to know your students. Know what they like, who their families are, what they connect to, and their experiences as individuals. Knowing them as people helps you to know the types of texts they would respond well to.

  2. As you choose texts to include in your curriculum, ask yourself whose values the text represents and whether that set of values is worth teaching in the classroom.

  3. Take time to look at the language used to see if it is both sensible and allows students to feel empowered and culturally safe.

  4. Over the course of the year, work to include authentic texts from a range of genders, races, religions, and ancestral origins so that students experience literature as a window to learning and the world.

These recommendations come from the knowledge that texts are primarily driven by language, and language is powerful. Language is communication; it is a bridge between people. Especially in the case of English, it is also, as Peirce (1989) notes, “like all other languages…a site of struggle over meaning, access, and power” (p. 405). This ability to influence, sway, and move individuals through words, both in the very words that appear in a text and the way in which words are used to portray a person, a culture, or a set of values is what makes it so powerful. Consequently, we are all users of language, but for some individuals, we are also victims and perpetual casualties of imprudent language.

When it comes to English, in particular, which is often perceived and/or understood to be an international language, language can never be “value-free” (Pennycook, 2006). The stories we tell, the characters we mold, and the settings we paint are intrinsically tied to the culture, time, and values we know. For that reason, educators must be especially thoughtful in the texts they choose for students because texts don’t simply represent a vehicle for learning and an entry into engagement. Rather, we must recognize that the works we read with and to students are powerful and political, and represent vehicles with the power to both foster and devastate the psyche of culturally and linguistically diverse students. In this world of globalization, which Steger (2003) argues is “a multidimensional set of processes that create, multiply, stretch, and intensify worldwide social interdependencies and exchanges, while at the same time fostering in people a growing awareness of deepening connections between local and the distant” (p. 13), we must think about language, literacy, and power as critical factors at the core of globalization.

Considering text choice through this lens, I’m plagued with the question of what awareness the text in question would have fostered. Would it have created and intensified the students’ understanding of the interdependence of different people upon each other or created a deeper connection of each cultural group with the others? I cannot say that I know her students well enough to fairly answer those questions. However, in addition to thinking about how engaging a text might be, it is also our obligation to examine how the texts we choose impact the learners who consume them. Educators must explore more options than the two extremes: boring our students or using texts that are riddled with words weighted with historical, political, and oppressive power. Though it may not be in the job description, it is in our responsibility to ensure that each of our students feels valued and safe. After all, it is their right.


Peirce, B. N. (1989). Toward a pedagogy of possibility in the teaching of English internationally: People’s English in South Africa. TESOL Quarterly, 23, 401–20.

Pennycook, A. (2006). The myth of English as an international language. In S. B. Makoni & A. Pennycook (Eds.), Disinventing and reconstituting language (pp. 90–115). Clevedon, United Kingdom: Multilingual Matters.

Steger, M. 2003. Globalization: A very short introduction. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Alexandra Guilamo is a K–12 educational consultant who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in the areas of English language acquisition, bilingual/dual language, literacy development, and school leadership. Alexandra has been supporting administrators, teachers, and students in the use of best literacy and language practices and formative assessment to promote literacy and language development in K–12 schools throughout the country.


The world we live in is becoming increasingly nationalistic, with more and more countries around the world enacting policies designed to privilege their own citizens at the expense of others. One way this exclusion is enacted is through attitudes and policies on language use, which frame immigrants and other nonnative speakers of the national language as illegitimate and outside the national identity. Despite widespread condemnation of overt racism as unacceptable, many people do not recognize linguicism—discrimination based on language—as discrimination at all. As language educators, we have an important role to play in raising awareness of linguicism and challenging linguistically discriminatory practices within our field, many of which have racial implications.

At the TESOL convention in Seattle, Washington, USA, I attended a session called “Addressing Linguicism: A Classroom Language Discrimination Simulation Activity,” in which Shannon Tanghe demonstrated a simulation that she uses with her teacher education students to raise awareness of linguicism and its classroom manifestations. Tanghe based her demonstration on Elliott’s famous 1968 blue eyes/brown eyes experiment, in which she divided her all-White class into groups based on the color of their eyes in order for them to experience racial segregation (Peters, 1970). In our case, she divided us into two groups based on the section of the room where we were sitting. As we discussed the meaning and manifestations of linguicism, the participants on the right side of the room were praised and encouraged to participate by name, with ample wait time given for them to get their thoughts together. Tanghe’s body language and vocal cadences were warm and inviting and she clearly showed affection for those on the right side. In contrast, whenever those of us on the left side spoke, she asked us to repeat ourselves and even after multiple attempts she asserted that she could not understand us. She turned her back on us and referred to us by the articles of clothing we were wearing or chose new pronunciations of the names on our name tags. In one case, she singled out an Asian woman with an Anglo name and insisted she share her “real name,” repeating the question despite the woman’s objections, until she finally relented and gave an Asian name. Throughout, Tanghe’s manner was gruff and dismissive. When she claimed not to understand us, she dismissed it as being reasonable and made insinuations about our “situations” and our home lives. When she did admit to one of us having a correct answer, she expressed incredulity and asked who helped us think of it. When a member of the privileged group changed sides of the room, to sit in solidarity with those of us who were not being heard, Tanghe refused to allow it and stopped the session until she returned to her “proper place.”

Half way through, she switched which group was considered privileged, but despite being in the group that now had “permission” to speak, I found myself staying silent, even though linguicism is an issue that I feel passionately about and I am usually not shy about participating in discussions. Knowing that I wouldn’t be heard if I’d spoken during the first half of the simulation, I chose instead to keep quiet rather than have Tanghe direct her disapproval toward me, and that conditioning lingered even after the external restraint was removed. As a White, American native English speaker, my English has always been considered “standard,” and when speaking my additional languages in the foreign countries I’ve lived in, I’ve found that my efforts have usually been appreciated and my mistakes sympathetically overlooked, so this experience of linguistic marginalization was new for me. Like Tanghe’s Korean students who participated in a similar simulation exercise focused on racial discrimination, I found the experience to be more “real” than I had expected, and it led me to reflect on the ways linguicism is present in my own teaching contexts (Tanghe, 2016).

As a participant in the simulation, one of the things that was most frustrating to observe was my peers repeating their answers over and over, with Tanghe insisting “I just can’t understand you” each time. While at times I genuinely can’t understand what my students are trying to communicate, the simulation raised my awareness of how disheartening repeated requests for clarification can be for a student. Being cognizant of the ways I ask students to repeat themselves, consciously making an effort to remember that communication is a process of negotiation, and being explicitly supportive when I have difficulty understanding a student’s ideas have been some of the ways the simulation has impacted my practice. Given that the burden of communication is usually placed firmly on the minority language speaker (Lippi-Green, 2012), my taking an active role in negotiating meaning shifts the power dynamic in the classroom.

Despite the fact that Tanghe’s session chose to focus exclusively on linguicism, linguistic discrimination often serves as a cover for racism, and language and race are deeply intertwined. In places such as the United States, where racial discrimination is illegal, students who are minority language users do not have the same protections and can be denied access to educational services on the basis of their language abilities, entirely within the scope of the law, even though the majority of English learners in U.S. schools are students of color (Liggett, 2014). This leads to racialized discrimination being justified on the grounds of language use, a trend that is likely to continue in the current political climate. Examining the position of English learners in U.S. public schools, Motha (2014) found that “speaking about ESOL students in terms of language identity provide[s] a shroud for discourses that might otherwise be read as racist” (p. 87). Colonial legacies and mainstream discourse link English to Whiteness, and anything considered nonstandard is racially marked. Within the field of TESOL, the racialization of linguistic minorities affects English learners of all races, speakers of World Englishes, nonnative-English-speaking teachers, and even non-White native-English-speaking teachers, who often have their linguistic background challenged on the basis of their race. Even in EFL contexts, there are often discourses in circulation that privilege Whiteness and English over local languages and racial groups.

As teachers, we need to be cognizant of the ways race and language intersect and how overlapping identities affect our students’ experiences of discrimination. During the simulation, Tanghe disparaged the family background of those in the marginalized group. While such statements are clearly derogatory, it is impossible to separate their racial and linguistic impact. Beyond overtly discriminatory statements or actions, both linguicism and racism can be quite subtle. When Tanghe smiled at one group, but not the other, or allowed a longer wait time for students in the privileged group to think of their answers, she was demonstrating subtle preferences that could have been equally influenced by racial or linguistic identity. For students with intersectional identities, there’s no way to know the reasons behind a teacher’s lack of support, but that doesn’t diminish its discriminatory impact.

As English teachers, we can work to eliminate these discriminatory practices in our classes and raise awareness of linguicism and its racial implications. Because linguicism is real, but often unnoticed, we can ask our students to observe linguicist practices in their communities. We can also encourage them to reflect on the racial identities of those they see face linguistic discrimination. Raising awareness of language as a situated, context-dependent practice can help students value all of their linguistic resources while encouraging them to make conscious choices about the forms they use with those in gate-keeping positions. One way to do this is to incorporate diverse accents and images of non-White English speakers into classroom materials. Another is to discuss code-switching and translanguaging practices and give students scenarios where they can consciously practice these skills in different contexts. Thinking about the audience and the communicative intention behind speaking or writing assignments can help students make informed choices about which language varieties are most effective.

By discussing these issues in the classroom, we give our students the tools they need to address them outside of class, as advocates for themselves and others in their communities. And for those of us who are teacher educators, we can use simulations such as Tanghe’s to integrate issues of language and power into the curriculum. We can also use counterstorytelling, a technique from Critical Race Theory, to help students reflect on their own racial and linguistic identities and challenge taken-for-granted mainstream norms (Cho, 2016). By raising future teachers’ awareness of linguistic discrimination and its racial connotations, we can help the next generation of English teachers become advocates of social justice within their classrooms. Given the increasingly hostile and nationalistic discourses playing out around the world, the social advocacy component of our work as teachers is more important now than ever.


Cho, H. (2016). Racism and linguicism: Engaging language minority pre-service teachers in counter-storytelling. Race Ethnicity and Education. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/13613324.2016.1150827

Liggett, T. (2014). The mapping of a framework: Critical race theory and TESOL. The Urban Review, 46(1), 112–124.

Lippi-Green, R. (2012). English with an accent: Language, ideology and discrimination in the United States (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Motha, S. (2014). Race, empire and English language teaching: Creating responsible and ethical anti-racist practice. New York, NY: Teachers’ College Press.

Peters, W. (1970). The eye of the storm [Motion picture]. USA: ABC News.

Tanghe, S. (2016). Promoting critical racial awareness in teacher education in Korea: Reflections on a racial discrimination simulation activity. Asia Pacific Educational Review, 17(2), 203–215.

Riah Werner is an English teacher and teacher trainer who has taught in Tanzania, South Korea, Thailand, and Ecuador and trained more than 200 teachers. She holds an MA in TESOL from the SIT Graduate Institute. Her research interests include drama and the arts, social justice in ELT, and locally contextualized pedagogy.


Molly Kelley

Andrew Lewis

According to a 2013 National Bureau of Economic Research study, 19% of the population is non-heterosexual, roughly one out of five students in any given classroom (Coffman, Coffman, & Ericson, 2013). This says nothing of students who are transgender nor those who are intersex. Despite these numbers, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA) students are “assumed straight…until proven gay” (Calleja, 2013, p. 7).

This assumption of heterosexuality negatively affects the language-learning outcomes of LGBTQIA students. It is not inconsequential that queer English as a second language (ESL) students have reported both anxiety in heteronormative classrooms and a desire to learn in more inclusive spaces (Calleja, 2013). Couple this with the reality that factors of motivation, such as anxiety and attitude toward the learning environment, negatively influence our students: “Without sufficient motivation, even individuals with the most remarkable abilities cannot accomplish long-term goals, and neither are appropriate curricula and good teaching enough on their own to ensure student achievement” (Dörnyei, 2005, p. 65).

So, why are ESL educators ignoring the needs of roughly 20% of their students? On the one hand, there is often a lack of awareness on the part of the instructor; we hope that the preceding information has helped shed light on this important issue and has convinced readers to prioritize the needs of queer students. On the other hand, many instructors seek to avoid perceived discomfort on behalf of their students. They may abstain from addressing topics they find controversial, topics they expect their students to be offended by. For a number of reasons, avoidance of discomfort does a huge disservice to all students. One example of this disservice can be found when instructors make gross assumptions about large swaths of their students based solely on place of origin. Assuming, for example, that students from the Middle East will not be open to a discussion even tangentially related to queer issues ignores their individuality as students and otherizes them. In addition, we also deprive our students of the vocabulary and exposure they need in order to discuss issues of gender and sexual literacy with fluency and sophistication.

More important, avoiding discomfort specifically punishes LGBTQIA students by flipping the script: we treat homophobic students and students with bigoted thoughts as “victims” of a diverse classroom. Nelson (2009) discusses this when she says, “Pedagogically, this translates into a primary focus on those who ‘suffer’ from having homophobic feelings, not those who suffer as a result of being hated or feared” (p. 73).

Ultimately, we are left with a classroom culture where we limit our students in their exposure to LGBTQIA topics, further normalize heterosexism/cissexism (prejudice or discrimination against transgender people), and leave both LGBTQIA students and potential allies without the skills they need to combat homophobia both in and out of the classroom.

We propose that ESL instructors prioritize inclusive learning environments for all students rather than catering to cisgender, heterosexual students. We acknowledge that making our classrooms safe and inclusive may make homophobic students feel uncomfortable; however, given the negative relationship in the research between a repressive learning environment and LGBTQIA students’ language-learning outcomes, this does not particularly concern us. In what follows, we provide some practical ways to make the classroom more inclusive for students who truly need our support.

Provide Expectations

First of all, instructors will find that many issues of homophobia dissolve when clear, authoritative expectations are provided early in the semester. These expectations should be written plainly in course syllabi and explained thoroughly on the first day. Begin by discussing the vocabulary students need to understand these topics and continue by giving specific examples of homophobic behaviors. Explain, for example, how laughing at the mere mention of homosexuality is unacceptable.

Support Queer Students

Another way to make classrooms more inclusive is to offer support to queer students. This could be as simple as bringing attention to any LGBTQIA resource centers or counseling services that are available to them. Many campuses also offer Safe Zone training (The Safe Zone Project, 2016), which seeks to train better allies and increase visibility. Instructors who have completed their Safe Zone training put a sign on their door that signals to students that this instructor is someone who can be safely approached with concerns or assistance on LGBTQIA topics. For more information and access to a free online curriculum, visit The Safe Zone Project.

Respond Appropriately to Homophobia

The next practice we suggest arises due to the spontaneous nature of homophobia. Homophobia happens casually and puts those who oppose it in the position of reacting immediately. More often than not this plays out with an instructor getting angry and lecturing their students about what to think, rarely an effective strategy in establishing inclusive classrooms. For this reason, we suggest responding more thoughtfully, rather than reacting immediately, to homophobia. To respond to an instance of homophobia in your classroom, begin by bringing the classroom to a halt. Tell the students to stop what they are working on. Tell them to stop talking. Give yourself a few moments to assess the situation and check in with your own emotions before talking to the students. To be clear, we are not suggesting being silent on issues of homophobia, but rather allowing the weight of a frozen classroom to inform the students there has been a misstep before it is directly addressed. Use this time to decide what you would like to say to your students. Explicitly state that you do not share the sentiment they have expressed. Explain that homophobia is not shared among the vast majority of Americans. If your institution has an antidiscrimination policy, remind them of such, and question the reasoning behind the student’s behavior. Because homophobic ideas rarely stand up to strict scrutiny, asking the offending student why they hold a specific opinion is effective in showing the classroom where you stand and why. A benefit of this strategy is that LGBTQIA students are shown support without having to out or defend themselves.

Responding rather than reacting to homophobic behavior is effective in showing students that they exist in a community where homophobia is rejected and that homophobic opinions are neither welcome nor shared. Rather than dogmatizing at our students and telling them what to think, we simply articulate that they are not in a space that welcomes bigoted thinking. This is more effective in terms of getting students to think critically about their assumptions and ideas, and it happens of their own will rather than by your command. Notably, this strategy also models for students and allies a way to defend themselves and others against future homophobic behavior.

In addition, this process gives students experience with dissenting opinion in an academic setting, something that ESL courses should be preparing university-level students for, anyway. This is alluded to in Nelson (2009) when she says that “the pedagogic goal…is not to stop students from saying something offensive…but to look at how interlocutors identify and manage interactions in which rules about ‘correctness’ and ‘appropriacy’ are not shared” (p. 89).

Include Topics of Sexual Literacy

One final way to make ESL classrooms more inclusive is to work topics of sexual literacy into our courses. This is not the same as overtly teaching gender or sexuality studies, nor is this spotlighting sexuality; rather, we can address curricular goals while including media that feature a wide range of gender and sexual representation. This can be hugely beneficial for several reasons. One is that this technique normalizes LGBTQIA identities rather than treating them as controversies. Treating queerness as a controversy gives students the mistaken perception that they have a say in how LGBTQIA individuals choose to live their lives or even whether they have a right to exist at all. Another issue that comes up when we frame LGBTQIA topics as controversies is that we force our queer students to closet, defend, or out themselves in order to participate. Another benefit to normalizing LGBTQIA identities through a wide range of representation is that it exposes students to non-heterosexual and non-cisgender characters without instructors lecturing to their students that homosexuality is okay. This helps students negotiate the importance and impact of sexuality on an internal level.

A few examples of inclusive media follow; however, it should be said that whereas finding media that normalize gay, lesbian, and bisexual characters is fairly easy, the same is not true for transgender, intersex, and asexual representation. As such, we consider this a working list, and look forward to expanding it in the future.


David Sedaris
Malinda Lo
Imogen Binnie


Gold, by Dan Rhodes
Shallow Graves, by Kali Wallace
Bleeding Earth, by Kaitlin Ward
More Than This, by Patrick Ness

Spoken Word

Dark Matter, by Janani Balasubramanian and Alok Vaid-Menon


Welcome to Night Vale, by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor
Alice Isn’t Dead, by Joseph Fink
The Bright Sessions, by Lauren Shippen
EOS 10, a scifi radio play, by Justin McLachlan
Wooden Overcoats, by David K. Barnes
The Mortified, by David Nadelberg


Calleja, R. E. (2013). Sexual identity in the ESL classroom: Exploring attitudes of LGBT adult ESL students (Master’s thesis). Hunter College of the City University of New York, NY.

Coffman, K. B., Coffman, L. C., & Ericson, K. M. (2013). The size of the LGBT population and the magnitude of anti-gay sentiments are substantially underestimated. National Bureau of Economic Research, 12. doi: 10.3386/w19508.

Dörnyei, Z. (2005). The psychology of the language learner: Individual differences in second language acquisition. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Nelson, C. D. (2009). Sexual identities in English language education. New York, NY: Routledge.

Safe Zone Project. (2016). One safe zone to rule them all. Retrieved from http://thesafezoneproject.com/about/

Molly Kelley is an ESL teacher and student advocate from Iowa City, Iowa, USA. Her professional interests include second language acquisition, creating inclusive classrooms for LGBTQIA students, and adapting popular culture for ESL use. She currently teaches at the University of Iowa.

Andrew Lewis is an ESL instructor currently teaching at the University of Iowa. His interests lie in materials development focusing on diversity and representation, the use of popular fiction podcasts in ESL classrooms, test development, and addressing student motivation.


A recent increase in anti-immigrant, nationalist, and populist sentiments around the world has led many of us to experience moments of confusion, distress, and anxiety. In the midst of so much uncertainty, it is easy to feel paralyzed, and it can be difficult to know how to move forward. These troubling times have become a call to each of us to use the power we have to make a difference in the world. Our individual efforts might take the form of street marches or phone calls and letters to our representatives, or they might involve reaching out to one individual person who seems isolated on the bus, at the bank, or in a class. Advocacy and support can take many forms, and it is up to each of us to do what we can to make a difference.

The annual TESOL conference is yet another place where engaged TESOLers can make a difference. This year’s TESOL conference theme "The World Comes Together at TESOL" sent a clear message of solidarity with colleagues from around the world who had come together to share professional expertise, training, and personal stories from multicultural classrooms. After spending a full week at this year’s conference with like-minded individuals who embrace diversity, respect cultural difference, and cultivate international understanding, I found myself feeling almost normal again. My world—which had just recently been tilted far off its axis by the recent election and a flood of anti-immigrant and populist messages—had been at least momentarily realigned.

My week at TESOL was spent soaking up inspirational educational sessions, meeting incredible world-class educators, and sharing my own personal and professional insights during a 4-hour Preconvention Institute on Monday and a poster session on Friday. When I wrote the proposal for my poster session, "The Alliance for International Women’s Rights—Distance English and Mentor Programs for Women in Afghanistan and Nepal," nearly a year ago, I never could have imagined how relevant it would feel at this particular convention. At the Alliance for International Women’s Rights (AIWR), our programming has always felt relevant for the volunteers in our program and for the women we serve in Afghanistan and Nepal. More recently, however, our work has taken on an even deeper and greater significance for many of us who volunteer in the organization. As the world has become increasingly difficult to understand, our responsibility for counteracting isolationist messages with empathy, encouragement, and kindness has seemed to grow exponentially.

The work we do at AIWR is in direct alignment with TESOL values of advocacy, integrity, and respect for multiculturalism, and the TESOL conference theme for 2017 was in direct alignment with our mission. Through our Distance English and Mentor Programs, our overarching mission is to create meaningful connections between women around the world with the goal of supporting women leaders and future women leaders in developing countries.

An extensive body of research shows that educating girls and women can have personal, professional, and economic benefits on an individual, family, and societal level (The World Bank Group, 2009; Koppell, 2013). Numerous articles on the "girl effect" demonstrate the ripple effect on families and societies when girls and women are educated. Women who are educated find easier access to professional advancement, raise children who also value education, and are less likely to marry early (Granett, 2014).

Although English language skills can offer girls and women the possibility for economic and professional advancement, English can also be inherently political in certain areas of the world, and language programming can be challenging, sometimes even dangerous. Threats to women’s safety and security, challenges with technology and Internet access, and electrical outages are just a few of the many factors that can make high-quality distance mentoring and English language programming difficult, particularly in countries such as Afghanistan and Nepal.

Despite the fact that it is often difficult, if not impossible, for Afghan women in Kandahar to access international educational opportunities, distance mentoring and English courses offer meaningful opportunities for cross-cultural exchange. As one of our student participants has said, “[AIWR] is the first organization in Kandahar Province in which we can study abroad from our own city—and we can learn about different cultures as well as improve our English skills.” For some Afghan women, the opportunity to learn English online means so much more than just learning a language: “Learning English is like water, food and breath—vital for me.”

Our programs are small, and they are managed and delivered exclusively by female volunteers, but even small programs such as ours have the potential to make a lasting difference in the lives of the girls and women we mentor. Over the past 10 years, we have been able to provide individualized long-distance English classes and professional mentoring to more than 250 Central and South Asian women.

These individual exchanges impact the lives of the Afghan and Nepali girls and women we serve, but they also open up the world to our volunteers while building international trust and understanding on an individual level. As one teacher has said,

This volunteering experience is much more than teaching the English language to a student. It is about understanding a different culture and seeing the world through the eyes of another person. It is about bringing people together and building mutual understanding, respect, and support. While I am teaching I am also learning. I am learning about struggles and aspirations, hardships and joys, values and visions of Nepali women.

Over the years, all of us at AIWR have come to recognize and respect the tremendous courage and determination that it takes for the young women in Afghanistan to continue taking classes even though they might face threats to their security and safety because they are women and have chosen to go to school. One teacher speaks for all of us at AIWR when she says,

The girls [in Kandahar] risk their lives every day to come to school and learn; they are eager, sincere, and courageous. It is a tremendous honor to connect with Afghan students and work with them to improve their English language reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills.

In Nepal, where the earthquake of 2015 destroyed many schools and subsequently affected the ability of many children to get an education, we are hoping, in the very near future, to collaborate with our local Nepali contacts who are developing programs in the hardest hit areas where girls and women might have fewer educational opportunities and where our programs have the potential to make a lasting difference.

Despite the challenges and inherent difficulty of offering consistently high-quality programming in hard-to-reach areas of the world, we continue to see countless rewards and benefits for all of our volunteers and participants. For example, the young women in Afghanistan and Nepal have been able to increase the capacity to share their stories and to more easily access educational and job opportunities. The international women who have volunteered their time and expertise to teach English and to help mentor these young women have also profited immensely through an increased understanding of the reality of daily life for women in Afghanistan and Nepal. New and lasting international friendships have often been forged, and these meaningful relationships have sometimes long outlived the online classes.

None of this means that our tiny organization has the power to completely counteract troubling political developments, which are cropping up all over the world. We do, however, firmly believe in the power of an individual to make a profound difference in the life of another individual, and we will continue to pursue our mission of creating connections and supporting future women leaders wherever and whenever we can.

In closing, I am reminded of Sherman Alexie’s impressive plenary speech at the TESOL convention. While Alexie entertained us with his wit and engaging storytelling ability, I personally felt that his message was also a challenge to each of us to do our part to make a difference in our international community of educators, language teachers and learners, and global citizens. During the speech, I scanned the crowd and considered how many nationalities and languages had come together to share knowledge and insights about international education. As I reflect on my time at the convention, I consider myself extremely lucky to be a part of this amazing international community. I encourage all of you to join me with TESOL and AIWR as we stand up for empathy, encouragement, and kindness. Each of us can make a difference in the world.

AIWR is always looking for highly qualified English teachers and professional mentors. Interested TESOLers can find more information about AIWR at Sherry Blok’s TESOL blog post “Empowering Women Living in Difficult Circumstances.” Application forms are available at the AIWR website. To apply for either the English Program or the Mentor Program, please email a completed application form to Cathy Raymond.


Granett, B. M. (2014, November 14). Giving back, supporting girls and women: An interview with author, Ann Garvin [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brandi-megan-mantha/giving-back-supporting-gi_b_6153430.html

Koppell, C. (2013). Educate girls, develop nations [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://blog.usaid.gov/2013/04/educate-girls-develop-nations/

The World Bank. (2017). Girls’ education. Retrieved from http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/girlseducation

Cathy Raymond is executive director of the Alliance for International Women’s Rights (www.aiwr.org) and assistant director of English Language Programs at Washington University in St Louis. She will travel to Tajikistan in the spring of 2018 as a Fulbright Scholar.



Myles Hoenig

Laura Jacob

Carter Winkle

Heidi Faust

Kimberly Mitchell

Anastasia Khawaja

Riah Werner

Hello everyone,

I am pleased to introduce our SRIS team to all of you.

Myles Hoenig is this interest section’s past chair. He teaches high school ESOL full time with Prince George's County Public Schools and has been active with ESOL for decades. He continues his involvement with TESOL and looks forward to continuing to assist SRIS and TESOL any way he can. This year, we warmly welcome our new chair, Laura Jacob. Laura is an ESL instructor at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California and coeditor of Social Justice and English Language Teaching, one of TESOL Press’s best-selling books. We also have two co-chair-elects: Carter Winkle and Heidi Faust. Carter is an associate professor at Barry University in the Division of Curriculum, Pedagogy, and Research, working with doctoral, graduate, and undergraduate education students. He unapologetically wears the badge of “advocate-researcher” as he explores cultural and linguistic issues around English language teaching and learning. Heidi Faust is the associate director of TESOL Professional Training Programs at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Her research area focuses on equity and diversity in education. Heidi also previously served as the chair for the Intercultural Communication Interest Section in 2015. Also new to the SRIS team this year is Community Manager Kimberly Mitchell, an administrator for the Secondary ESL program for Katy ISD in Texas. She became a second language learner while volunteering as an affiliate coordinator for Habitat for Humanity Costa Rica. That experience led her to begin a career in education teaching English learners at the junior and senior high levels. Kimberly also volunteers with an equine therapy organization that serves children and adults with disabilities.

Finally, your newsletter editors are Anastasia Khawaja and Riah Werner. Anastasia is currently a doctoral candidate in second language acquisition/instructional technology at the University of South Florida, busily writing her dissertation proposal focusing on the emotions associated with languages that Palestinians use in Palestine and in the diaspora. She is also a senior instructor at INTO University of South Florida and has previously taught in Peru, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates. Riah Werner is finishing up a fellowship at an Ecuadorian public high school and preparing to move to Cote D’Ivoire, where she will be an English Language Fellow teaching ESP and training teachers at the National Pedagogical Institute for Technical and Professional Training in Abidjan this fall. She uses drama and the arts to help her students address the issues facing their communities and is committed to developing locally contextualized pedagogies with the teachers she trains.

All of these individuals are dedicated to furthering the need for advocacy and social responsibility in TESOL. We very much look forward to their participation in SRIS community development and appreciate the leadership they have already shown.

Our SRIS team is here to partner with all of you as we continue to navigate through the current political climate which has already had the potential to wreak havoc not just in our field, but on us as individuals as we advocate for social justice and social responsibility in our lives. This community is now more important than ever. The future can still be bright as long as we keep fighting the good fight together.

Anastasia Khawaja


Statement of Purpose

TESOL's Social Responsibility Interest Section (SRIS) supports members who are actively engaged in integrating language teaching with social responsibility, world citizenship, and an awareness of global issues such as peace, human rights, and the environment. The interest section aims to promote social responsibility within the TESOL profession and to advance social equity, respect for differences, and multicultural understanding through education.


  • Represent the interests of those incorporating social responsibility methodologies into their teaching of English to speakers of other languages (ESOL).

  • Promote the development of professional standards for social responsibility.

  • Develop instructional strategies that promote tolerance, global awareness, international understanding, and social responsibility among teachers and learners.

  • Research language teaching content, methods, and approaches that can help students become active global citizens in their local cultures.

  • Help teachers and learners around the world better understand the causes and solutions for global issues that affect the human family.

  • Work to overcome national stereotypes and negative images held by ESOL professionals and learners that hinder peace, cooperation, and trust.

  • Disseminate ideas in the form of publications, research, and ready-to-use classroom materials.

  • Arrange teacher training courses and workshops that introduce TESOL professionals to such fields as global education, peace education, environmental education, and AIDS/HIV education.

  • Provide teaching resources to help teachers teach about global issues and social responsibility.

  • Further the profession by making language teaching more relevant to world realities.

  • Provide a forum for TESOL professionals to share experiences so as to more effectively promote global awareness and social responsibility through content-based approaches to English language teaching.

  • Link TESOL members, affiliate groups, like-minded associations, and governmental organizations worldwide working with global issues, peace education, and social responsibility.


Greetings Social Responsibility Interest Section!

We are Riah Werner and Anastasia Khawaja, the editors of the SRIS newsletter, TESOLers for Social Responsibility. We loved reading all of your submissions for our June issue and are excited to announce that the theme for our September issue is Identity, Inclusion, and Advocacy. How does your identity affect your involvement in social responsibility? What practical ideas do you have for creating inclusive classrooms? How do you create space for diverse voices in your advocacy? If you have thoughts you would like to share with the SRIS community, please send them our way! We are particularly interested in hearing international perspectives on these themes.

We are looking for

  • Feature articles: Share your presentations, research projects, or classroom practices.

  • Anecdotes and stories: Do you have a story or personal reflection related to identity, inclusion, and/or advocacy? If so, we’d love to hear it!

  • Compilation and evaluation of useful resources: Share a list of resources or references that you use in your work, along with an explanation of how or why you find them helpful.

  • Reports and reviews: Write about a book or an article that has inspired you as a teacher or researcher.

  • Interviews: Is there a member of the TESOL community you would like to interview? Send the interview our way!

Your submission can be between 500 to 1,750 words. If you have an idea but need some ideas on how to develop it more fully, please email us at ajkhawaja@usf.edu or riah.werner@gmail.com, and we will brainstorm together!

Please send your articles to Riah Werner at riah.werner@gmail.com with the subject line "SRIS Newsletter Submission.”

The deadline for submissions is 1 August 2017.

General Submission Quick Guide

Articles should

  • have the title in ALL CAPS;

  • list a byline (author’s name with hyperlinked email, affiliation, city, country, and an author photo);

  • include a 2- to 3-sentence teaser;

  • be no longer than 1,750 words (including bylines, teasers, main text, tables, and author bios);

  • include a 2- to 3-sentence author biography at the end of the article;

  •  follow the style guidelines in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th Edition (APA style); and

  • be formatted in .doc, .docx, .rtf, or .txt.

Include an author photo

  • This should be a head and shoulder shot.

  • It must be a jpg, submitted as a separate file.

  • Dimensions are 120 pixels (width) by 160 pixels (height).

  • The photo must be clear, clean, professional, and appropriate to the article.

The SRIS newsletter is a great venue to share your innovative work and ideas with our community. We look forward to receiving your submissions soon!

Kind Regards,
Riah and Anastasia