The ECIS MLIE conference in London was a breath of fresh multilingual air, with its compelling theme “Multilingualism Through Unity: Growing Host, Home and Instructional Language.” WIDA was proud to sponsor this bi-annual event, which brought together scholars, practitioners and thought leaders. Together we inquired into how we can better serve multilingual learners in international schools, while conversations and presentations wove together insights from research and wisdom from the classroom. Student voices were one of the most powerful additions to this year’s conference. Fatima, a student from Tashkent International School, captivated three hundred educators with her rendition of Sujata Bhatt’s poem “Search for my tongue,” as she shared her TEDxYouth talk about identity and language.
At MLIE, teachers shared ways to support students’ mother tongues and engaged in healthy debate about the role of translanguaging. And listening to many multilingual voices on the streets of London, we were also reminded of the vestiges of a colonial empire and the need for international educators to continue to explore how language, identity, privilege and power are interrelated in our schools. As Suresh Canagarajah observed (2013) the classroom can be “a potent site where students may develop a critical attitude toward existing norms but also develop pedagogies, repertoires and strategies…along, against, beyond dominant norms without disregarding them.” Today’s transnational students, with sophisticated, hybrid identities, cross boundaries in international schools; we need to continue to ask how policies, pedagogy and programs can build on multilingualism as a resource.
In the same way, WIDA continues to learn from educators around the world. At the MLIE conference, we shared emerging findings of new research at WIDA about leadership practices that serve multilingual learners in international schools. And in this newsletter, we feature the Liger Leadership Academy, a WIDA International Consortium member school, reflecting on our shared commitment to social justice and multilingualism. In the coming weeks, we will host Symposia in Beijing and Buenos Aires, to inquire together and share innovative practices. At WIDA, we look forward to amplifying both international teacher voices and multilingual student voices, to help the global school community continue to grow.