Raise Up: diversity in the classroom

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to chat with Ila Coimbra. She’s an ESL teacher and teacher trainer, IATEFL speaker, founder of the BRAZ-TESOL Voices SIG, and co-author of Raise Up, a textbook developed with inclusivity in its core.

vspokeHow did the idea of creating an inclusive textbook come up? What motivated you?

Ila Coimbra – I have always given talks on diversity and inclusivity, that’s when James M. Taylor suggested we turn it into a book. The truth is that we are not the only ones talking about it. There is a change in how we approach diversity in the classroom, but incorporating this into textbooks has happened at a slower pace and, usually, in local materials. That’s why we decided to create a more mainstream coursebook to include a more accurate representation of the world we live in.

vspokeWhy is it important to be more inclusive, to incorporate diversity in textbooks?

IC – We believe that diversity benefits all learners.

First, a more accurate representation of society in the classroom is both an opportunity for our students to be exposed to other cultures and identities, and to express their own identities. This means that, if our students are part of the minorities included in the textbook, they might be able to express their identity and also feel as they belong in the English-speaking world. This is called ownership of language (Norton, 1997), which is strongly connected to motivation and identification with the target language and culture.

Second, even if our students are not part of any minorities, by being exposed to a wider variety of groups they might develop empathy, tolerance and acceptance, thus learning to live with differences.

vspokeWhat should teachers keep in mind in order to ensure inclusivity?

IC – The students. Who they are. Their identities. What they identify themselves with. As a teacher, one has to be aware of the many identities that there are in the classroom. It’s all about them, helping them see the world as it is; including them or making them more prepared to live in a world that is more diverse. And before including any other issues, the teacher should make sure that their students feel included in the class. I think that if we start with that in mind, there is no way it can go wrong.

vspokeHow can people learn more about Raise Up? How can they purchase it?

IC – Anybody who is interested can purchase our books here. Or on our Facebook page. Also, all the profits from the sales go towards CASA 1, which is an NGO in Sao Paulo, Brazil, that supports homeless LGBTQ+ youth.

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