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Dr. Faughey Publishes Lessons in National Journal

Oyster Bay High School English Language Arts teacher Dr. Deirdre Faughey brought the work she’s done in the classroom to the nationally printed page. She authored two articles that were selected for publication in the “English Journal,” a peer-reviewed publication by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

 

As a teacher licensed in English Language Arts and English as a New Language, Dr. Faughey integrated ways to tear down walls, spark conversations, and build relationships in a diverse 10th grade English classroom where half were learning English. She focused on learning about cultural identity through the study of literature, which became the subject of the article, “Cosmopolitan Conversations in a Multicultural and Multilingual Classroom,”  published in September, 2019.

 

Inspired by the College Board’s curriculum, Dr. Faughey pulled together various forms of text, short stories and poems, formal academic writing, and non-fiction, and used them in a hands-on, engaging way to help build different skills in her students. Through discussions of those texts, an art activity, student interviews and written reflections, Dr. Faughey’s classroom evolved to a more connected and compassionate learning environment.

 

“One of the things I did with my students was share the story of my mother coming to this country from Ireland and some of her experiences,” Dr. Faughey said. “We talked a little bit about my own name, its Irish roots, and how the spelling can seem unusual to people who aren’t from Ireland and haven’t come across the name before.”

 

After reading a short story, revelations emerged. “We were reading ‘By Any Other Name,’ which is a story about two girls in India who were sent to a school run by British missionaries. The teachers asked the girls to change their names to more English sounding names because they said their given names were too hard to pronounce,” Dr. Faughey said. “This prompted one student to share that similarly he had a different name at home than he did at school. Learning about him and his experiences came out of my sharing my story and experiences.”

 

Dr. Faughey then infused a hands-on art activity to help students think more deeply about their own cultural identity. They researched Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, famous for her self-portraits, then created their own self-portraits and interviewed each other to learn more about each other’s backgrounds.

 self portrait connecting El Salvador and America

A student illustrated a cultural connection to El Salvadore and the United States.

“In the article, I wrote about how this activity was a key part of building community because a lot of times we share something about our lives or about our background but we don’t often interact with other people or have a chance to have a conversation with another person about it at school,” she explained. “Through the portraits, students shared their backgrounds in really unique ways. They helped us to see how they saw themselves.”

 

The portraits also helped drive what to do next in the classroom, Dr. Faughey noted. When conducting a similar lesson in her Honors English class, one student illustrated her Taiwanese and Egyptian background and drew herself inside a melting pot. “If not for this project, I never would have known her background. It helps me think about what to do next in the classroom as far as texts and activities that may be beneficial.”

 self portrait of background in melting pot

A student depicts her Taiwainese and Egyptian background in a melting pot.

After sharing their backgrounds, students wrote about their conversations with their peers, noting for example, “‘My family makes pasta and sauce and lasagna, but his family makes salsa and burritos’… They made different foods but have similar experiences,” she said. “It was insightful for the students as well myself, and a good experience for them to see similarities and differences.”  

 students interview each other about backgrounds

Students interview each other about their backgrounds.

In another article titled “Can We Do This?”: CoCreating Curriculum with a Twenty-First Century Mindset,” printed in June, 2019, Dr. Faughey wrote about teaching as an act of collaboration with students. Determined to engage and encourage students while teaching Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” she introduced the idea of creating podcasts. “I gave them guidance on how to develop one, brought in some examples and modeled the process of creating a podcast with Dr. Ryan O’Hara, our English Language Arts Supervisor,” she said.

 

Divided into groups, the students “came up with all kinds of interesting ways to do their podcasts,” she said. “Students who were unmotivated or disengaged really got into the idea of creating a podcast, and when I listened to them, I could see their ability shine through in ways that I hadn’t seen before. Students who were disengaged suddenly came to life.”

 

“The key that I tried to emphasize in this article is that we were really co-creating the curriculum because they were bringing as much to it as I was,” she explained. “It was an experiment, and not only with technology. The students kept asking me, ‘Can we do it this way…Can we do it that way’ and the more open I was to their suggestions, the more they were able to create something that really showed their talents.”

 

One group focused on the question of who is to blame for Romeo and Juliet’s death. Another partnership compared the text to film versions over time and talked about how each different film version reflected the time period they were created in and debated the merits of each one.  Two girls who interviewed teachers, did their podcast on what it was like to be a teenager in Juliet’s time compared to today. “They were struck by the idea that Juliet is told who to marry and she is only 13 years old and she has no choice in it, so they were interested in the relationship teenagers have with their parents today and what their parents force them to do and what they are allowed to do on their own,” Dr. Faughey said.  

 

In addition to being a prolific author, Dr. Faughey recently created a set of teaching practices for the New York State Department of Education. These practices are designed to support English Language Arts teachers working with English as a New Language  students in the mainstream classroom. The aim is to build understanding and awareness of instructional methods that align with the Next Generation English Language Arts Standards for New York State. They include effective ways to make modifications in the classroom, develop scaffolding in lessons, and help multilingual learners while also benefitting everyone else in the classroom. The instructional materials, including a document, a Power Point and a video, will be posted on the New York State Education Department website later this school year.