chapter  6
28 Pages

Voices from the Front Line

Over the course of my more than forty years as a lecturer in basic writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and as a tenure-track faculty member at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle, I have regularly solicited information from my students about the history of their language and literacy experiences-especially as it relates to the range of languages and dialects they bring to the classroom-first, to make them aware of the dispositions (Bourdieu, 1977) and discursive resources (Lu, 2004) they have at their disposal; second, to help me better understand the extent to which what they bring informs what we have been charged to teach them in our writing classes; and finally, to encourage them to add new dispositions and discursive resources to their repertoires of practice that will help them navigate and negotiate the varied social spaces they are likely to inhabit in their everyday lives in and out of school. Not surprisingly, the degree of compatibility between what they bring with them and what we have to offer typically varies on the basis of their race, ethnicity, class, age, gender, ability, sexual orientation, lifestyle and citizenship status, especially as these axes of differentiation (Braidotti, 1994) are marked and rendered visible in the ecological context of the factors I discussed in Chapters 2 – 4 : language, culture and identity. This was particularly true during my early years at UIC when almost every student in each of the three writing classes I taught every quarter was either poor or working class and a person of color.