TESOL 2020: Where the World *Cannot* Come Together!

My Visa Story

I realized that I happen to have one of the most “powerless” passports in the world when my UK visa got rejected three times and I could not attend EUROCALL2017 in person, and many thanks to Virtually Connecting, I could participate in the conference online (You can read about my visa story here: Denied yet Present at EUROCALL 2017: A Memoir).

Now that I have these visa rejections in my visa resume, every single time I apply for a visa I have to disclose them to the visa officer(s). Maybe this is the reason this bitter memory doesn’t fade away (I have written in detail about the nightmare of conference visa applications here).

Why am I writing these again (and again and again)? Because I want you to exactly know why I am “too sensitive” about visas and why I care “too much” about the unfair, and let me be clear, racist Trump travel ban, known as executive disorder among Iranians.

TESOL and Visa

As an ELT scholar, I have always wanted to attend TESOL conferences. I am a working class English instructor and for me TESOL is not an affordable conference to go, and of course I only have Iranian passport, so I automatically don’t submit my abstract(s) to TESOL conferences.

If you check TESOL2019 visa information page (click here, and I couldn’t find the similar page on TESOL2020 website), they ask:

Need A Visa?

For general visa information, visit the U.S. State Department website.

My answer to this question is a big yes, and I did check the US State Department website. I found this brochure, and of course the following information:

On Trump Travel Ban

Nationals of seven countries are currently subject to various travel restrictions contained in the Proclamation, as outlined in the following table, subject to exceptions and waivers set forth in the Proclamation.

The President issued Presidential Proclamation 9645, titled “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists or other Public-Safety Threats,” on September 24, 2017.

Source: Click

Country Nonimmigrant Visas Immigrant and Diversity Visas
Iran No nonimmigrant visas except F, M, and J visas No immigrant or diversity visas
Libya No B-1, B-2, and B-1/B-2 visas No immigrant or diversity visas
North Korea No nonimmigrant visas No immigrant or diversity visas
Somalia No immigrant or diversity visas
Syria No nonimmigrant visas No immigrant or diversity visas
Venezuela No B-1, B-2 or B-1/B-2 visas of any kind for officials of the following government agencies Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace; the Administrative Service of Identification, Migration, and Immigration; the Corps of Scientific Investigations, Judicial and Criminal; the Bolivarian Intelligence Service; and the People’s Power Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and their immediate family members.
Yemen No B-1, B-2, and B-1/B-2 visas No immigrant or diversity visas

Source: Click here

You might wonder what “except F, M, and J visas for Iranians” means:

M and F visas: Student visas

J visas: Exchange visitor visas

This protest sign can explain why Iranians get this wavier:

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Source: Unknown (A friend shared this with me)

Let’s keep in mind that this waiver doesn’t mean that you can get the visa as you will be subject to “increased scrutiny”.

And the family members of the individuals affected by Trump travel ban are living in limbo.

Scholars of Color and Travel Ban

I guess now everyone knows about Trump travel ban. Infographics have been designed (one example here), documentaries have been made (one example here), and Twitter accounts have been created (one example is @UndoFamilyBan). Speaking of academia, Scholars of Color have been directly affected by Trump travel ban. Some examples:

You can read more about scholars’ travel ban stories here:

Banned Scientists 

Documenting the impact of the immigration ban on U.S. science

TESOL and the Actions I Took

First, I contacted @TESOL_Assn on Twitter. Here are my private messages:

 

I was told that if I have concerns regarding attending the TESOL Convention, I should contact conventions@tesol.org, and if I have any other questions, I should feel free to let them know.

I then tweeted this:

And I kept mentioning @TESOL_Assn and @TESOLConv.

And I wrote an email to the organizers (I usually refer to them as People in Power Positions):

Wed, Jul 11, 2018, 9:40 PM

Hi,

I hope this email finds you well.

I am contacting you about TESOL 2019 which will be held 12–15 March in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. I have noticed that “Where the world comes together” is being used to publicize the conference on TESOL social media. In this challenging, divisive time, this is not possible and I hope TESOL PR team reconsiders the way the word “world” is used. I am aware that some conference organizers (e.g., International Society for Language Studies) have decided not to hold their conferences in the USA until the travel ban is lifted. This is something that TESOL might want to consider. Moreover, opportunities can be provided to people who are affected by the travel ban to present online synchronously or asynchronously. I look forward to being able to participate at TESOL conferences.

Peace,

Parisa

I received a very positive reply and I was told that TESOL is against the travel ban and is trying to provide opportunities for those who are affected by the ban.

Note 1: Check ISLS’ response to Travel Ban here. ISLS 2018 was held in Canada and ISLS 2019 will be held in Hong Kong (check here). 

Note 2: I am sharing these private efforts because when you blog or share something on social media and express your concerns, you are told, “Why didn’t you write privately to them?”.

Recently, I noticed that “Where the World Comes Together” is still used for TESOL2020. I mentioned @RiahWerner and asked her to be my voice and bring this to the attention of TESOL’s Social Responsibility Interest Section (@SRIStesol) people as I know that she is involved in that SIG.

She then kindly suggested that I could write for the Social Responsibility Interest Section newsletter. I thought that’s a good idea and I immediately opened a Word file and started writing. I was in the middle of writing and researching that I noticed the theme of the conference for TESOL 2020 is “Where the World Comes Together”!

The TESOL ​2020 convention theme is Where the World Comes Together. Join the international TESOL community in Denver, Colorado, USA, and experience what makes this association unique: Engage in dialogue with present and future practitioners, administrators, researchers, and advocacy leaders about language education and policy as you enrich your knowledge, networks, and professional experience.

If you are an ELT professional or scholar or in a related field or content area, you are invited to submit a proposal for the TESOL 2020!

Source: Click here

That moment I realized that I should write what I want to say here on my platform.

To TESOL and Scholars of Color

Dear TESOL,

Thousands of academics have signed a letter opposing Trump’s travel ban (click here).

Thousands of scholars have protested against Trump’s travel ban by boycotting academic conferences held in the US (click here).

In solidarity with people affected by the ‘Muslim Ban’, an academic boycott of international conferences held in the US has been formed (click here).

I understand that it might not be easy to hold your conferences outside the US, however, I believe:

  • Changing your PR slogan was/is still possible.
  • Providing opportunities for virtual presentation and online participation was/is still possible.
  • Choosing a meaningful theme for educators who are constantly being told to be “inclusive” and teach “critical thinning”, “critical literacy”, and other buzzwords was possible.

if and only if you truly care. 

I have read your TESOL Statement on Second Immigration Executive Order many times! I used to be a big fan of Public Statements, but I’ve changed my mind. Apparently, they just serve the power structure. Also, I do follow your advocacy program which “addresses issues that affect the profession worldwide”. I’ve repeatedly asked myself, Why don’t these advocacy efforts facilitate real change? I then go and read @pgorski‘s article again: Complicity with conservatism: The de-politicizing of multicultural and intercultural education.

Dear fellow Scholars of Color,

When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.

quote-when-we-speak-we-are-afraid-our-words-will-not-be-heard-or-welcomed-but-when-we-are-silent-we-are-audre-lorde-114756

Peace,

Parisa

 

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Women of Color in ELT

I’ve been trying to fit into the unjust, unfair, inequitable, and exclusionary ELT world about 5 years since I moved to Japan.

I have stopped trying to fit in. What happened and why? The following figure can give you some idea. You can also go through the blogposts here. So, I no longer wish to be “included” and no longer let anyone “include” me as those who have the power to “include”, have also the power to exclude.

Page-1

Source: Click here h/t: Click here

This blogpost by Maha Bali, Unpacking Terms Around Equity, Power and Privilege, and this lecture (Revolution Todayby Angela Davis were so eye-opening to me as I truly realized why “diversity” and “inclusion” are such problematic terms.

If we stand up against racism, we want much more than inclusion. Inclusion is not enough. Diversity is not enough, and as a matter of fact, we do not wish to be included in a racist society.

I remember that when I came to Japan, I was added to or encouraged to join ELT Facebook groups about gender equality/equity. Well, I did. I then turned the groups’ notifications off, and I told myself, I live in Japan and I have no gender issues anymore. So naive, huh?

I’m now acutely aware of the inequities imposed by the intersections of race, gender, skin color, physical appearance, nationality, and religion.

I even shifted my research focus from Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) —quite male-dominated area of research in ELT— to Social Justice Education and Equity Studies in Education (SESE).

I supported, joined, and got involved in feminist/equity/equality movements in ELT:

JALT GALE SIG

Women in ELT

EVE: Equal Voices in ELT

Equality in ELT in Japan

I also read about:

The Fair List

Gender Equality ELT

There was always a voice in the back of my head telling me that something is missing: A sense of belonging. A sense of representation.

I believe the reason is that the issues related to Women of Color in ELT, whose struggles are way different, are often ignored, and issues related to race are often swept under the rug.

For example, a database of women ELT speakers

  • cannot help women who have visa issues (e.g., read my visa story here, click here as well) and that is why we need to talk more about open access in ELT and support movements like Virtually Connecting.
  • cannot help women who live in contexts where currency crisis is an issue and that is why we need to add class to the equation.
  • cannot help women who find ELT conferences inhospitable and unsafe and that is why their needs should be addressed (e.g., how to navigate predominately white spaces in ELT).

I tried hard to communicate with these pictures.

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Click here

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Click here

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Click here

I googled and started reading to connect and bridge the historical gaps in my mind.

For example, I found this:

Rosie the Riveter isn’t a universal icon: “That was a white woman’s story”

So it wasn’t that I was boycotting the Rosie story. It simply had nothing to say to me.

That is why, inspired by Scholars of Color in Language Studies (SCiLS) and KOTESOL People of Color Teachers SIG, I have decided to start this movement in the hope of bringing Women of Color in ELT together so that we can support each other, learn together, and share our feelings that are constantly denied and invalidated by the dominant power structure in ELT:

 Women of Color in ELT

Women of Color in ELT, Twitter post

I want Women of Color to stand together against racial erasure in ELT.

I want Women of Color’s intersecting complex identities to be represented in ELT.

I want Women of Color in ELT to belong.

Peace, radical love, and revolutionary hope,

Parisa


You can read about WOC in ELT and its mission and goals at:

https://womenofcolorinelt.wordpress.com/about-woc-in-elt/

If you identify as a Woman of Color in ELT (read about the term “Woman of Color” here) and would like to add your name to the Database of WOC in ELT, you can fill out this form.

If you are a true ally and want to support this movement, please check WOC in ELT Supporters.

How to Achieve Gender Parity in ELT Conferences and Events: Some Guidelines

How to Achieve Gender Parity in ELT Conferences & Events (1)

I am an active member of JALT GALE SIG and we are discussing how to achieve gender parity in ELT conferences, events, and associations in general. It is believed that some guidelines are needed to make the selection processes systematic as there is a fine line between inclusion and positive discrimination. Some good articles have been shared on the GALE mailing list. As usual, I consulted EVE: Equal Voices in ELT. Also, I personally did a search and found some resources.

Here is the list of articles and other resources on this topic that I have read so far:

And here are the parts that I found interesting:

  1. Become aware of our own biases, which means recognizing the lenses that we’ve looked through for our entire lives.
  2. To reduce gender biases, we need to acknowledge them.
  3. Avoid these excuses: https://www.genderavenger.com/excuses/ and https://www.bbc.com/news/business-44310225
  4. Collect the data; i.e., count the number of women and men attending a conference.
  5. Develop a speaker policy; for example, the conference committee wants to achieve a gender balance of speakers that roughly reflects that of its audience.
  6. Make the policy visible and put it online for everyone to see.
  7. Establish a balanced and informed program committee. If the conference program committee is not diverse, then neither will be the speaker list.
  8. Report the data to see how well the conference, speaker series, or symposium meets its stated policy goals.
  9. Build and use databases because some people find it difficult to come up with names of women speakers, compared with men speakers. Here is an example: https://genderequalityelt.wordpress.com/database-of-women/
  10. Respond to resistance. Most criticisms are easily addressed by establishing a dialogue with those who are critical about establishing a policy, and you can prepare in advance.
  11. Support women at meetings. Women often have primary caring responsibility for children. This can limit their ability to travel and to attend conferences. So, be family-friendly.
  12. Take the pledge: When you are invited to help organize, attend, or speak at a conference, ask to see the conference speaker policy before you accept.
  13. Make diversity a strategic priority and expect those who work for and/or with us to do so as well.
  14. Raise awareness of diversity. If you are asked to present, be on a panel, or serve on a committee, ask if there are (other) women participating. If not, suggest names of women to invite.
  15. Consider not speaking at an event unless the event’s organizers are clearly working hard to address diversity on stage.

At Buffer, they ask themselves if the event displays the characteristics of their core  values. Here are some of them:

  • Default to transparency
  • Listen first, then listen more
  • Have a bias toward clarity
  • Make time to reflect
  • Show gratitude
  • Do the right thing

I think some of these guidelines can be applied to achieve highly proficient speaker parity in ELT conferences and events as well.

Finally, here is the most interesting conflict of interest I have ever read:

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
We care about diversity in science and may therefore be biased.

If you want to add more guidelines or share some resources on how to achieve gender parity in ELT conferences and events, which should not be an issue but it is in some contexts, please leave a comment.

Thank you.

Peace ❤

Diversity at JALT and the JALT Code of Conduct

Diversity at JALT and the JALT Code of ConductAdd subheading

After this incident my life changed completely. Now, I actively give talks about the real Iran and the Iranian people behind the news, and blog about the Iranian identity at https://beyondyourstereotypes.wordpress.com/. I am dealing with smiling depression and social anxiety. To heal myself and learn how to respond to micro/macroaggressions, I participate in events/workshops on harassment. I became an active member of JALT GALE SIG. I joined SIETAR Japan. So, I am trying to create something positive out of a horrible experience.

BTW, I added “An Equity Advocate” to the title of my blog, and a couple of emojis to my Twitter account! I also tweet randomly and quite irrelevantly about the unseen Iran!

I just finished writing a report on Gifu JALT event in January 2018 about diversity at JALT and the JALT Code of Conduct, which was developed due to several unpleasant incidents at JALT conferences (including the incident that happened to me –> That was the reason I did not quit JALT and decided to stick around and make little changes, and I am pushing myself to feel belonged to JALT, as inclusion is not the same as involvement).

Gifu JALT

Here are my sketchnotes:

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p.s. Recently, I have realized that there is no “JALT National Conference” but there is a “JALT International Conference”! Well, it is time to dispel stereotypes about JATL, too 😉 I am working on that 🙂

Here is the link to the report in JALT GALE Newsletter:

http://gale-sig.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Spring-Gale-Newsletter-2018-May-16-FINAL-small-5.31.pdf

Untitled

The ELT Movements I Support

I’m a conference goer, and I’ve decided to put the logos of the following movements on my poster or in my last slide and introduce them to my audience. I contacted them and they kindly allowed me to do so.

  1. ELTtoo To raise awareness against harassment & bulling in ELT
  2. TEFL Equity Advocates and Academy To speak out for equality in ELT
  3. EVE: Equal Voices in ELT To recognize both gender and NNS/NS parity in ELT conferences and events

Here is my last slide at the Tottori JALT event:

Being an Iranian Woman Today

Yesterday I contacted EVE and asked about PanSIG2018’s plenary speakers’ line-up. I am happy to announce that PanSIG2018 qualified for a purple (the Gender Balance) EVE and was included in the EVE calendar:
JALTPanSIG2018