International Coalition for Multilingual Education & Equity
ICMEE is housed at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln an institution that exists on Indigenous land, particularly that of the Ponca, Pawnee, Omaha, and Otoe. Across Nebraska today many Indigenous communities strive and thrive, including the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska, the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, the Sac & Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska, the Santee Sioux Tribe of the Santee Reservation of Nebraska, and the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. We honor our Indigenous neighbors and relations as well as work to be in right relationship with them. To that end, we are seeking to engage with, support and grow relationships with various Indigenous education and activist organizations.
What is ICMEE?
ICMEE, at its core, is a learning organization committed to imagining and realizing the possibilities of abolitionist teaching (Love, 2019) and learning projects. For us, such projects are grounded in pluralistic, democratic educational practices and outcomes that promote expansive multilingualism and equity. We seek to proactively disrupt notions of teaching and learning that fall into traditional cultural scripts wherein teaching is operationalized as surveillance and learning as compliance. We see the limitations of such teaching and learning practices as an evasion pedagogy where through compliance with such cultural practices, we proactively evade the possibilities of disrupting inequity.
Bettina L. Love (2019) describes the goal of abolitionist teaching as, “freedom. Freedom to create your reality, where uplifting humanity is at the center of all decisions” (p. 89). Dr. Love also calls for abolitionist teaching efforts to be grounded in thoughtful and articulated theories of teaching and learning. Further, Crystal T. Laura (2018) argues that as educators we need to, “strengthen your core: train yourself to teach with a fundamental, non-negotiable goal of constantly (re)creating healthy and productive learning spaces that young people don’t need to recover from. No. School. Wounds.” (p. 26).
With these ideas in mind, we seek to describe here our core. Specifically, we describe how we are engaging in teaching and learning as a learning organization committed to disrupting evasion pedagogies as we seek to achieve racial and linguistic justice within a larger vision and imagination for abolition, decolonization, freedom, and equity.
Our Core Commitments: Learners, Community, and Curriculum
We seek to end our complicity and comfort with violence, oppression and anti-black practices, discourses and institutional structures, particularly in our fields of teacher education and language education. To do this, we examine our own complicity with these firm-standing racial and linguistic hierarchies and work together to find opportunities to actively disrupt such inequities and to envision and enact liberation from oppression. We seek to accomplish this through principled and value-centric practices and approaches. Currently, our focus is around broad ideas regarding learners, community, and curriculum. Each of these areas are intertwined with the other and are composed of multiple facets themselves. In a way, we are braiding together ideas, principles and theories that we envision helping us weave a vision for and create possibilities of abolition, decolonization, freedom, and equity.
Learners Our work is grounded in the belief that teacher learners should have substantial agency over their learning. However, we also believe this is true for learners of all ages and stages. Learner agency includes, but is not exclusively represented by: the materials learners engage with, the problems learners seek solutions for, and the work learners share with their peers. In relationship to learner agency, the leadership roles and practices learners put into place have a strong impact on both a learner’s own learning, but also the learning of their peers and the learning community collectively. In addition to this commitment to learner agency and leadership, we also focus on learners engaging in meaningful collaboration. In the collaborative space of exchanging ideas, interrogating the ideas of others as well as imagining the possibilities of new ideas in practice, learners bring and extend their knowledges in a space of mutual expansion.
Community In order for learners to truly have agency, take leadership and learn well in collaboration, equitable learning communities need to be developed. We believe the principles of self-actualization, reciprocity and accountability (Simpson, 2017) are fundamental to the development of abolitionist, decolonizing, freedom, and equity-focused learning communities. These three principles are intricately connected and in combination generate incredible possibilities for transformative, equity-based learning to occur. Self-actualization is important individually as well as collectively for it is how we both work towards being and bringing our truest selves to learning spaces while we also create that possibility for other members of our learning communities. Through self-actualization we strive to have all of the identities (understood as dynamic and potentially shifting, even during the short timeline of an eWorkshop or course) of the learning in our communities affirmed in our learning spaces. We recognize that self-actualization can only successfully occur in reciprocity where our own self-actualization cannot come at the cost of that of another. Further, we have to hold ourselves accountable to the principles of self-actualization as we live in a colonial, white supremacist, ableist, heteropatriarchy, that has been established to limit self-actualization in very tangible and violent ways.
Curriculum Since the terrain of ICMEE as a learning organization is built on teacher learning as well as multilingual education and equity, the focus of our curriculum is guided by the research on preparing teachers to work with multilingual students (Viesca et al., 2019). In our analysis of this literature, attending to the complex realities of teaching and learning, we identified three important curricular elements: context, orientations and pedagogy. Context provides the opportunity to explore historical and contemporary socio-political projects and discourses that impact teaching and learning. Orientations provides the opportunity to explore various perceptions and positionalities include our orientation to teaching, learning, students, and oppression. Pedagogy provides the opportunity to learn about as well as put into practice the theories and processes that create the possibilities for transformative learning. To us these theories and practices should be fundamentally dialogic, critical, sociocultural, joyful, and inquiry-based.
Our Process and History
As a constantly striving, dynamic, and responsive learning organization, we have not always been where we are now (physically and figuratively) and will be in different places in the future from where we are now. We started as a $1.9 million grant in 2011 from the Office of English Language Acquisition called eCALLMS (eLearning Communities for Academic Language Learning in Mathematics and Science) at the University of Colorado Denver. We grew to a second large grant from the same funders ($2.6 million in 2016) at the University of Nebraska Lincoln called the International Consortium for Multilingual Excellence in Education (ICMEE). We are now more than the funding or specific project and have shifted our name to focus on equity over neoliberal notions of “excellence.” And while we plan to seek additional funding, the collaborative nature and ongoing opportunities generated from previous grant funding will live on regardless.
Therefore, we seek the opportunity for continued collaboration with educators and educational researchers who share our commitments and our core. We strive to work with all partners seeking racial and linguistic justice guided by three collaborative commitments (Grande, 2018): to collectivity, to reciprocity and to mutuality.
To date, our work has focused on supporting the learning of teachers who work with multilingual students, especially general education teachers. We have started to grow our work to include all teachers concerned about racial justice and equity. In total, we strive to work with teachers, schools, districts, and organizations who are invested in equity initiatives and support multilingual approaches. In collaboration with various groups we seek to provide learning materials that match our commitments and can help to disrupt issues around oppression and inequity as well as deficit perspectives of multilingual students, families, and communities.