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Partner Stories

Language Workshop Inspires Teachers

Charmaine Turner

MGP’s professional development helps teachers grow, and thisimpacts hundreds of students beyond MGP. Charmaine Turner called MGP’s 2011 language variation workshop “an eye-opening” revelation. “Those five days were the best professional development I ever had in 10 years of teaching. It was awesome.”

Fresh from the workshop, Turner “applied everything immediately. I was on fire.” She taught her students at MGP’s City Springs/Collington Square/Garrison Forest summer program to “code switch” – that is, to swap one variety of English for another. Middle school slang, a variation on standard English, is a “code” understandable only to members of a group. It isn’t wrong, says Turner, “but you have to know when to speak it and when to switch to ‘school English.’”

Turner’s students listed common terms in their everyday vernacular and defined each one in “school English.” Turner also had her kids identify vernacular in TV shows. “As teachers, we want kids to learn, but unless I connect it to something they already know, they could care less.”

 
Brian Higginson

Boys’ Latin teacher Brian Higginson also praised the MGP workshop. “I’m English,” he explains, “and believed Americans don’t speak properly. This professional development completely wiped out my snobbery. It’s given me a whole new vocabulary with which to talk about language.”

His Garrison Middle School/Boys Latin summer students found a code-switch approach “liberating because there was no judgment about how they speak.” Higginson and Turner both say their students are adept “translators.” Once kids realize their vernacular isn’t “wrong,” but simply a variation, they’re easily in tune with knowing when to switch it off and on.

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