Irene Heidt

Irene Heidt is a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer of Teaching English as a Foreign Language at the University of Potsdam and a secondary school teacher (English/ Fine Arts) of linguistically diverse students in Berlin, Germany. In her PhD, she conducted a longitudinal ethnographic study over a period of fifteen months which examined how two teachers of civics and their multilingual students encountered and struggled with divergent and incompatible worldviews and moralities in the German educational system of Bildung. This research interest stemmed from her own migratory experiences as she emigrated from Uzbekistan, to Russia, and then to Germany. A revised version of the dissertation will be published in 2023 in the Multilingual Matters series Language, Education, and Diversity. Her current research is focused on intersections of language, symbolic power, and identity in critical English language teacher education and on the development of English language students’ symbolic competence in today’s age of uncertainty and ambiguity.

Seminar Three Provocation: The Politics and Ethics of Teaching Multilingual Students in German Citizenship Education

Today’s increasingly heterogeneous classrooms in terms of culture, language, and religion have largely challenged (language) teachers’ professional identity which has made a transition from a ‘neutral technician’ to a ‘transformative intellectual’ (Guilherme, 2002), to a ‘go-between’ (Kramsch, 2004), to a ‘moral agent’ (Kubanyiova & Crookes, 2016), to a ‘multilingual instructor’ (Kramsch & Zhang, 2018). All these conceptualizations of today’s teaching profession prompt for a more critical, political and ethical knowledge-base and disposition on teachers’ part than just factual and objective knowledge. By drawing on a longitudinal ethnographic study conducted over fifteen months (May 2016 – July 2017) in a civics class at a secondary school in Berlin, Germany, this presentation examines how Mrs. Ahmadi, born in Germany to parents who migrated from the Middle East, approaches the contentious topic of homosexuality in Islam with her ninth grade Muslim students. Through an ecologically oriented discourse analysis (Kramsch & Whiteside, 2008) of classroom interactions and teacher interviews, the study illustrates how Mrs. Ahmadi charges a difficult teaching moment with her subjectivity and historicity in an effort to establish a relationship of trust to her students while, at the same time, making her students realize how their embodied religious truths increasingly clash with the secular liberal-humanist morality as privileged by the German educational system (Bildung). Ultimately, the presentation addresses the necessity of teachers’ “identity-relevant vision” (Kubanyiova & Crooks, 2016) to create a culture of encountering the ‘other’ in today’s increasingly multilingual and multicultural classrooms.

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