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  • Writer's pictureAbby Fowler

The Blue Butterfly In The Hands Of EFL Educators: Dua Jabr Dajani's Reflection of Iowa

Dua Jabr Dajani of Palestinian Territories was one of the English language teachers we hosted last August for an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) project titled “English Language Speaking." Since the end of her program, Dua wrote a thoughtful essay reflecting on her time in the USA, and with her permission we are sharing what she wrote about Iowa. Read the full piece here, and read on to see what she learned during her visit to eastern Iowa.

The Blue Butterfly In The Hands Of EFL Educators, by Dua Jabr Dajani

Newman Abuissa greets the delegation with a welcome sign at the airport.

“...Upon our arrival to Iowa, we were greeted by two volunteers from Global Ties Iowa, [Newman Abuissa and Melanie Haupert,] holding a greeting sign written in Arabic. We were approaching the end of our trip and I was tired and nostalgic! Yet, I was excited to learn about the role of bilingualism in learning and assessment. GoMee Park from the University of Iowa Multilingual Education Department presented to us an attempt to integrate bilingualism into the teaching of non-native Americans. She explained that teachers have conflicting ideologies about bilingualism. Some educators view the mother language as a resource and others consider it as a problem. Teachers’ beliefs about integrating students’ bilingualism are affected by the wider sociocultural, political, and economic context. However, the pressure of state-mandated assessments perpetuated the monoglossic ideology, which maintains the status of English as a hegemonic language and reduces linguistic tolerance.

Meeting with GoMee Park, joined by volunteer John Achrazoglou.

That evening, we were invited to dinner by two professors at Happy Hollow Park, Ben Hassman and Amy Alice Chastain. Both are knowledgeable about English language teaching and enhancing students’ conversation and intercultural dialogue. We discussed issues related to diversity and equity in learning. But what made that dinner unforgettable was their calming presence, the thoughtful messages they sent when they brought us Arabic food from an Egyptian restaurant, and the questions that turned into a conversation angled at our different lives. The English language we spoke and the few Arabic words Amy uttered promoted interest and curiosity and understanding of coexisting diversity.

… I left the USA with a hopeful (perhaps wishful) thought that teaching the English language which opens the door to American and other cultures should be tailored to allow learners to express their experiences, hopes, struggles, and beliefs. Specifically, in our disadvantaged and conflict-ridden educational context, English as a lingua franca should empower learners to fight discrimination and silencing their voices, and resist exclusion from the majority. Furthermore, the English language should enable minority groups to engage in negotiations for local and global social equality, justice, and peace. Like the blue butterfly in our hands, it is up to teachers of EFL what to do with it.”

At an Iowa Table Dinner at Happy Hollow Park, hosted by Ben Hassman, joined by Amy Alice Chastain and Maria Õunlap.


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