Gloria Park is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). As a researcher and teacher educator, she is dedicated to helping both English language learners and their teachers to come to understand themselves as knowledgeable, reflective individuals who are critical of how the English language is situated in worldwide contexts. Her research and teaching focuses on educators as professional people whose personal lives outside of the classroom have powerful implications for their evolving identities and work as teachers of the English language. Both within the specific realms of TESOL and Applied Linguistics and in the field of teacher education more broadly, she is interested in understanding how all TESOL teachers’ (especially the ones from diverse linguistic, racial, and cultural backgrounds) constructs of their knowledge, identities, and pedagogies are developed and enacted. [email@example.com] | May Interviewer: Davi S. Reis
1. Could you tell us about your educational and professional background and what led you to become an educator?
My educational and professional background begins with (re) constructing my teaching philosophy, which is and continues to be shaped by personal and political endeavors. When my family emigrated from South Korea to the U.S. in 1976, I quickly experienced this new context as a strange place, full of unfamiliar faces that spoke an incomprehensible language. Although my first mission was to master the English language, other issues surfaced—my African-American and White classmates called me “chink”, and told me to go back to my country. I took refuge in the care of my science teachers who allowed me to cry and openly express my feelings. Equally important, were the strategies they used in their courses to help me gain knowledge and skills in understanding science. Although their effective strategies enabled me to succeed in their courses, it was not enough to ignite my passion for pursuing a career in the field of science. Then, in 1995, my first visit back to Korea serendipitously led me to an English teaching position. This experience ignited my passion for working with other English language learners and their teachers. My passion to teach arose from the care I received from my science teachers earlier in my educational journey, coupled with my exposure, via my graduate education to Nel Nodding’s (1984) work on the “ethics of care” which I have since come to fully embrace. Nodding’s perspective has enabled me to dedicate myself to being a moral and ethical professional, which is at the core of what I teach and how I teach as a teacher educator and an English language specialist. I believe that caring about what and how my students learn leads to effective teaching. Ultimately, for me, my teaching is about assisting my students to understand that the skills and knowledge accrued through my courses can extend beyond the classroom and become part of the fabric of their lives and the lives of others.
2. You have worked as an educational consultant and course designer in multiple settings and international contexts. What have been your primary guidelines or principles in designing various curricula?
The most important component in designing curricula has been “knowledge of Learners and their Contexts.” Due to this guiding principle, I designed and implemented World Englishes in Composition and Applied Linguistics at IUP. This course was approved as part of a regular course for both MATESOL and Ph.D. students at IUP’s English Department.
Every student who enters my classroom becomes part of my knowledge base. I learn with my students and from my students. This, in turn, enables me to teach such that they can better understand how their past/present can lead to envisioning possibilities for their future as morally and ethically responsible professionals. In my undergraduate writing course, focusing on issues of diversity and social (in)justice, the ultimate goal is for students to connect these issues with their majors in order to conduct research on a social phenomenon. As such, I am committed to helping my students increase knowledge and skills by scaffolding materials and encouraging critical thinking around how the world around us shapes who gets marginalized and privileged. To this end, the first writing assignment, a “Diversity Autobiographical Narrative,” asks students to narrate their understanding of diversity and social justice issues, to discuss how these issues might or might not have been part of their lived experiences, and finally, to draft inquires which they might want to explore for their final research project.
Similarly, I require my TESOL graduate students to chronicle their language learning and teaching history as an important step in understanding the global dominance of English that privileges and marginalizes a variety of English speakers. My students’ learning and teaching history becomes a starting point for helping them to see the problems inherent in exporting Western-based pedagogies into their home contexts. Their history also helps them to be mindful of the challenges inherent in finding the best teaching methods, since effective and appropriate language teaching must be situated in the contexts in which learning occurs. With constructing their own educational history, my TESOL students come to see their course requirements as one thread of their ever evolving professional portfolio that will ultimately guide them to becoming an effective teacher of English and an advocate for promoting an appropriate English curriculum in their home countries.
3. Mentoring seems to have a special place in both your research and practice. How have your own experiences with mentoring (either as mentor or mentee) informed and shaped your desire and ability to advocate for cultural and linguistic minorities?
I believe mentoring is a lifelong journey in that it is intimately connected to what I do as a teacher, researcher, and teacher educator. Mentoring is a process of looking inward in order to find my “self” and understand how this “self” can begin to embrace the students who enter my life. My mentorship philosophy has evolved. I used to believe that I should only think about the good mentors who have shaped my life. These days, because I directly work with both MA and Ph.D. students, I, more often than not, think about those mentoring relationships that have changed my epistemological and ontological perspectives.
As it is true with everyone, I have had some really good and not-so-good mentors in my life. I reflect on these incidents that have dictated my life in the past 10 or so years in higher education as a doctoral student, language teacher, and as a teacher-scholar in a tenure track position. And every time I reflect on these events, I am reminded of those mentors/mentoring sessions that were not as good and those that have pushed me to reassess human relationships and the power issues that are embedded in the relationship between mentor and mentee. I tell myself not to repeat history and because I went through a not so good mentoring relationship in academia, I need to be more mindful of how I treat my students.
4. Mentorship is often critical in the professional preparation of confident and agentive NNESTs. Can you describe some of your strategies, activities, or techniques that you use for successful mentoring?
Both direct and indirect mentoring are part of my teaching. In every class, one of the first assignments is to ask students to construct their autobiography/literacy autobiography. This helps me to get to know them, and of course, when I make comments, etc., I often share some experiences that I have had that parallel what they went through. In other words, I speak to them through commenting on their texts. But, also, I share with my students (in the first 2-3 weeks) bits and pieces of my lived experiences as a second language learner, teacher, graduate student, and now as a faculty. These sharing experiences in class and my intimate conversations I have with their texts become part of an important mentorship process.
5. In my own work with PK-12 preservice teachers in the U.S., I often find that, for some of them, their initial understanding of social justice and diversity is quite simplistic and naïve, if not altogether antagonistic in relation to current educational theory and practice. In addition to the “Diversity Autobiographical Narrative”, could you give us a few more examples of how you work with your students (both undergraduates and graduate level) to expand their views?
For me, this is a semester long endeavor (with my undergraduate research writing students) and a program long endeavor (with my MATESOL program students). For instance, with undergraduate students, in addition to constructing their diversity autobiography, they select an “ism” topic (i.e., sexism, racism, etc.-I use a reader published by Routledge that discusses theory, personal histories, and pedagogical strategies) that they want to learn more about, and I ask them to think of some incidents or issues that are pervasive in their own disciplinary contexts (their undergraduate majors). For instance, Fashion Merchandising majors often look at the disconnect between the gender of the students in this major in higher education vs. those who have made it in the real world (as world class designers are often men). Another is, wage discrepancy between men and women in business contexts. This is an empirical project that the students undertake from the beginning of the semester all the way to the end by doing background readings, designing interview/survey methods to gather data from the world outside of their classroom, and analyzing data to interpret the findings. Others in education, such as early childhood majors, have explored raising awareness (educating the public) of autism, and other learning-related challenges that teachers and parents face. Some journalism majors have examined the invisibleness of African American anchors in broadcast news channels, etc.
As for MATESOL and other graduate students, in each class I teach, I ask them to reflect on the theory and practice connections they have learned in previous courses, no matter when I have them (first semester/first year, Introduction to TESOL and Applied Linguistics, to the final course, and practicum). This type of reflective learning allows them to think about each course and how courses should be thought of as learning opportunities to build their repertoire as TESOL professionals whether they choose to enter the teaching profession or a Ph.D. program.
6. In one of your publications (Park, 2008), you delved into a critical moment when you began to embrace your identity as a linguistic and racial minority. You suggest a delicate process for raising awareness of issues of identity for adult learners of English through questioning techniques. Looking back, would you add to or change anything about this awareness raising process from a pedagogical standpoint?
I believe that everyone should construct their autobiography, especially in terms of literacy development. Depending on where one is in his/her life journey, the focus of the autobiography and the types of questions would differ. However, what remains the same is the “writing is a way of Knowing” (Richardson, 2000), and writing becomes a method of inquiry (Park, 2013a). In this brief pedagogical piece in the ELT Journal, I discuss the value of promoting autobiography writing in academic literacy courses in higher education, and share final reflections of students who have gone through these autobiographical writings.
I continue to explore how narrative writing, and other evocative genres of writing can help me and my students to look inward as a way to understand how our lived experiences are intimately connected to what we do in teacher education programs. Being a faculty member in an English Department has given me an expanded epistemological view on teacher education. Although poetry writing is not something that I do often, I have recently embarked on a writing project (presently being revised for resubmission), a poetic inquiry that explores my meaningful literacy events and the ways in which these events become both privileging and marginalizing for me as I continue to live out my goals in higher education. Through this writing project, I have come to understand further the perception of women scholars in academia, which has allowed me to continue exploring how issues of diversity and social (in)justices influence the ways in which women are perceived and treated in higher education.
7. Understanding the lived experiences of NNESTs seems to be an important aspect of your research and practice. How has writing about your own lived experiences helped you in (re)articulating and reconciling your multiple subjectivities and identities?
The longer I teach, the more I appreciate how our lived history influences the way learning and teaching is shaped. Inevitably, my students enable me to see myself as both a lifelong learner and teacher, dedicated to helping them meet their academic needs, helping them find appropriate strategies to assist in creating their knowledge base, and instilling in them the courage to voice and advocate for their own needs as well as those of their future students.
The theme of Race, Class, Gender, and Language Teacher Identity in TESOL Programs is my most significant contribution to my scholarly growth as a TESOL teacher educator working to improve the educational lives of students matriculated in MATESOL teacher education programs. To this end, I have dedicated and committed most of my time to conducting research on the lives and experiences of East Asian women teacher candidates matriculated in the U.S. MATESOL programs.
8. Your most recent book contract is about marginalized East Asian women identities. Can you recount some of your most memorable experiences with other East Asian professional educators? What advice would you give to other East Asian or minority women seeking to become English educators or researchers in the United States?
The core of my research on the life histories of East Asian women in the field of TESOL teacher education is to explicitly highlight the COEXISTENCE of the privilege AND marginalization in their lives. The literature continues to either privilege their experiences due to the way the society views socieconomic capital OR marginalize their experiences due to linguistic and racial experiences vis-a-vis the ways in which English language is perceived and teaching of this is enacted around the world. In this line of inquiry, I have 3 pieces: (1) gender issues related to claiming a dominant linguistic identity as a Korean language teacher (Park, 2009); (2) one Chinese woman’s journey highlighting the disconnectedness between her experiences in China, her TESOL program, and her mentored student teaching experience (Park, 2012); (3) how issues of privilege and marginalization intersect by discussing Bourdieu’s forms of capital/privilege for women and demystifying the model minority ideology using Kumashiro’s concept of oppression/marginalization. The end result is that for these women and perhaps elsewhere who come from similar educational, cultural, and social backgrounds, there are dimensions of privilege and marginalization that coexist in their lives and it is the responsibilities of faculty and educators to raise awareness of such coexistence. This consciousness-raising can be done via conducting research with our students as well as through re-conceptualizing courses and restructuring the teacher education/TESOL programs that continue to admit international students (Park, 2013b).
9. How did you become interested in issues of power and privilege in TESOL? Are there particular incidents you remember that you would like to share with readers?
One of my mentors and a dear friend, Dr. Suhanthie Motha, introduced me to critical pedagogy during my first year as a doctoral student at the University of Maryland at College Park, in 2000. Since that day, I worked hard to read and learn more about Paulo Freire’s (2000) critical pedagogy and how this is applied to education in general and to applied linguistics/teacher education specifically. I continue to look to Su and her work as learning opportunities in my own work.
10. Your excellent scholarship record is evidence that you have had to work very hard in establishing yourself professionally. Do you believe you have had to work harder as a minority working in the U.S. in order to be validated and respected by your students or colleagues?
Thank you! I feel that I need to work harder. My husband is always encouraging me to “live in the moment,” and not think too much about the future (as in the next publication project!).
Oh, Yeah! I do have to work harder than others, I believe, to establish myself professionally. But… (there is always a but), I have a lot of privilege bequeathed to me by people around me (family, friends, mentors, colleagues, students, etc.) in the past, now, and in the years to come. So I believe in discussing how I walk on the continuum of privilege and marginalization, and depending on where I am, who I am interacting with, and how I interact, there is more emphasis on one over the other, but they coexist in my life and I need to be mindful of this and help my students understand that this is possible for them as well. We often only focus on the negative or the subjugated experiences, but the other side of the coin also exists for many, and it is important to chronicle these and share them in class with our students and teachers.
11. As both a teacher and teacher educator, what are some challenges and struggles you have faced and how have you overcome these challenges?
As a teacher and advisor, I am often known at IUP as a faculty that shows “tough love.” Perhaps I should not share this so openly, but I often “yell” at my students and “lecture” them on what it means to be on this journey as graduate students (both course students and students working on their dissertations). Sometimes, these become brutal sessions. I openly talk about their rights to educational opportunities, and not settling for less than perfect in terms of what they can accomplish as students and “learn” from each course they take. I talk to them about the “Nice is not enough” chapter in Sonia Nieto’s (2010) book, where Nieto discusses that being nice should not be confused with being tough when it comes to academic rigor. Given appropriate resources and mentorship, I push my students since I know that they can do better.
12. As a successful scholar, how do you balance work and life? How do you remain optimistic in face of ideologies that place NNESTs as second-rate professionals?
It is hard to balance work and family, especially as a Mom of a 5-year old. Without my husband’s help, especially in the past five years, I don’t think I would have been as productive. When I began at IUP, Aidan was 3-months old. My identity as a new Mom in a tenure-track position has allowed me to shine, manage my time, and be just as or more productive than my peers in my programs. A perceived social stigma of being a newly minted Mom in a world of academia often pushed me to do more than I was asked and these issues appropriately surfaced through my teaching and scholarship inquiry. There was an expectation that moms in the university would be less productive and more problematic in terms of teaching and scholarly activities. We are often seen as less productive and less competitive. Perhaps, this perceived act pushed me more than usual to do my best in my teaching and scholarship. Ironically, although there was an element of self-perceived marginalization as a result of my assigned and embraced identity, I was also comfortable being at my institution where I can do the type of work I was prepared to do. My consistency in teaching and scholarly productivity surprised my colleagues, yet I was doing what I was set out to do as an assistant professor in a tenure-track position.
While I was being productive at school, Aidan thrived at the university day care. Although I often felt unscrupulous for leaving him at the day care for long days, he seemed to do well. Due to my guilty conscience, I capitalized on the hours I had at school away from my son. In the first couple of years, I often came in at eight in the morning and focused on my teaching and research inquiry until five in the afternoon, when I left to pick up my son. On days, when my husband picked him up, I stayed later at school to get more work done. Even on the days when I did not teach, I came to school and locked myself in my office, which was about five by seven feet in size with no sunlight (after 2 years being in that office, I now have a bigger office with windows!).
Since 2008, bearing the name of my institution, I published six single-authored refereed journal articles, one co-edited book, one book chapter, three co-authored refereed journal articles, and have six refereed journal articles in preparation. In terms of teaching, I taught across the programs represented in my department: 12 undergraduate classes and 14 graduate classes in total, and one of the graduate courses was designed, implemented, and approved by the university curriculum committee. I consistently received high evaluations on areas that mattered for students and their learning. I share these details to illustrate the profound effect my identity as a new Mom in academia, coupled with my lived experiences, has had on my work in higher education. I often wonder why women in academia work so hard to prove themselves in higher education institutions.
13. In terms of professional development for NNESTs, what are some suggestions you have for helping to prepare them to identify, acknowledge, and critically respond to the oppressive ideologies they may encounter as TESOL professionals?
I believe that writing is a method of inquiry (Richardson, 2000). Through writing opportunities such as the writing projects mentioned previously, I can begin to address (both inward and outward) the oppressive ideologies that are pervasive in society.
14. What type(s) of research and research projects do you believe we should pursue as a community of scholars interested in furthering equity for NNESTs in TESOL? Which areas do you believe have been well researched and which still need further exploration?
Although I will continue to strive for issues of equity and access for NNESTs in TESOL and elsewhere, there will always be challenges in this area due to the ways NNESTs are often treated in academia. HOWEVER, what we can continue to do is to bring together teaching and research so that one informs the other and vice versa. Below I share some areas of further teaching and research explorations:
- A teacher-scholar model is what we need to continue to promote. An explicit discussion of how teaching informs research and vice versa should be discussed not only in courses we teach but also in our research dissemination. We need to go beyond what we discuss in implications for teaching, teacher education, mentoring, and research to place those at the center of our inquiry. For instance, more teacher-scholarship writing projects (and ultimately turn them into publications), where our design of the courses turns into research projects with our students.
- More explicit discussion via teaching and publication should be done on our privilege and marginalization experiences as NNESTs. Raising our awareness and being critically conscious about how we continue to journey through understanding the coexistence of privilege and marginalization is a critical step in understanding who we are as NNESTs. Depending on our sociocultural and sociopolitical identity positions vis-à-vis their embraced identities, we are on different points of this coexistence continuum. More work on Grounded Theory needs to be conducted as one way to generate new theories in the work we do as NNESTs on the issues of NNESTs.
- More work on academic socialization processes for tenure-track and tenured as well as contingent faculty needs to be designed and conducted to understand and unpack how higher education institutions continue to treat their faculty, especially the ones from diverse linguistic, racial, cultural, gendered backgrounds. We often become inundated with our work, getting tenured (or completing dissertations), etc. that we often resort to a statement such as the following: “I will challenge the status quo when I become tenured, etc.” This continues to empower the ones who are in powerful positions to remain in power.
- More collaboration (teaching as well as publication ideas) should be done with newly minted faculty as well as doctoral students. How can new faculty members learn from the experienced when only the experienced faculty continue to work together? We need to question the “academic cliques” in terms of what they do and how they do this. How can these “academic cliques” turn into community of practice where we continue to embrace and nurture the new members into our academic communities? Working with new faculty, graduate students, or classroom teachers with very little publication/research experience can place much more burden on those who are well published. If this scenario continues, then how can we continue to mentor the junior faculty, etc. with teaching and research that are critical in what we do as NNESTs. Conducting research and publishing in peer-reviewed journals are political endeavors, and we must be able to discuss explicitly the identity politics at the core of what we do. It is important to share these experiences with our mentees in a variety of educational contexts.
- As a faculty in the English Department at IUP, I have been influenced by the work of David Ian Hanauer (2010), especially his work on poetic inquiry and poetic discourses that get at the heart of human experiences in higher education. This area is one that we can embark on as we continue to prepare teachers to teach English as an international language.
- Finally, we need to examine carefully our TESOL curricula (undergraduate all the way to doctoral programs) and ask ourselves how is our curriculum meeting the needs of students who are admitted into our programs: Knowing our learners (i.e., Knowledge of Learners coupled with other knowledge domains in teacher education philosophy) is the first critical step in re-examining our curricula.
Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed (30th anniversary ed.). New York: Continuum.
Hanauer, D. (2010). Poetry as research: Exploring second language poetry writing. John Benjamin Publishing Company.
Nieto, S. (2010). Language, culture, and teaching: Critical perspectives, second edition. New York, NY: Routledge.
Noddings, N. (1984). Caring: A feminine approach to ethics and moral education. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Park, G. (2008). Lived pedagogies: Becoming a multi competent ESL teacher. In J. Carmona’s (Ed.), Perspectives on Community College ESL: Volume 3: Faculty, Administration, and the Working Environment (pp. 17-29). Alexandria, VA: TESOL, Inc.
Park, G. (2009). “I listened to Korean society. I always heard that women should be this way…”: The negotiation and construction of gendered identities in claiming a dominant language and race in the U.S. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 8(2),174-190.
Park, G. (2012). “I am never afraid of being recognized as an NNES”: One woman teacher’s journey in claiming and embracing the NNES identity. TESOL Quarterly, 46(1), 127-151.
Park, G. (In press for 2013a). “Writing IS a way of knowing”: Writing and identity. ELT Journal, 67, 3.
Park, G. (In Press for 2013b). Situating the discourses of privilege and marginalization in the lives of two East Asian women teachers of English. Race, Ethnicity and Education.
Park, G. (Book Contract Secured). Where privilege meets marginalization: East Asian women teachers of English. A book contract with Multilingual Matters, LTD. in Cambridge, UK .
Richardson, L. (2000). Writing a method of inquiry. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed., pp. 923-948). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.