“I Am Unsure Where to Draw the Line”: Writing Conferences, Language Ideologies, and the Student Teacher/Cooperating Teacher Relationship

“I Am Unsure Where to Draw the Line”: Writing Conferences, Language Ideologies, and the Student Teacher/Cooperating Teacher Relationship

Katie Nagrotsky
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-6213-3.ch015
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


The author analyzes a case study of one pre-service teacher's reflections from her experiences student teaching in order to think through some of the issues teacher educators face when supporting pre-service teachers to become teachers of writing. Findings reveal that, as this pre-service teacher developed a critical stance that acknowledged the linguicism she witnessed in her student teaching placement, she also struggled with how to actualize her learning to address deficit language ideologies in writing conferences and to communicate her beliefs about “appropriateness” to her cooperating teacher. Recommendations for supporting pre-service teachers as they continue to develop as writing teachers and educators capable of recognizing and disrupting linguicism are provided.
Chapter Preview


In the fall of 2018, Julia (a pseudonym) was working towards a masters degree in secondary English Language Arts. Like many of the pre-service teachers in her cohort, she was enrolled in a required course on the teaching of writing while simultaneously completing a student teaching placement under the guidance of a cooperating teacher. As she shared this story about an everyday experience co-teaching writing workshop, many of her peers in the course nodded in recognition:

One of the kids got so upset that he cried. I was sitting next to him. “My play sucks; look at everything he asked me to change.” And I just said, “well…this is advice and you can take it or leave it.” And the teacher came over and was like, “What’s wrong?” My cooperating teacher totally overtook that and sat down. And I got up and walked away because it’s really weird if the two of us are sitting here next to the student. [The cooperating teacher] is kind of harsh. I don’t think he realizes.

Julia’s words above are representative of many of the tensions expressed by participants in a larger qualitative study as they navigated critical incidents due to how they are positioned while student teaching. In his discussion of the analysis of critical incidents, Tripp (2012) notes that oftentimes, on a daily basis, even, “teachers experience the feeling that if they had done what they chose not to do, things might have turned out even better,” but he adds that “they can never know for certain” (p. 54).

Tripp goes on to say that a critical incident is made critical through its analysis (2012). In her reflection on this particular interaction, Julia was dismayed that the student began to cry during this writing conference (Atwell, 2014; Calkins, 2020; Graves, 2003; Rief, 2014), and explained that she was unsure how to address the meaning of the moment with her cooperating teacher.

What Julia did not say also felt important: the student identifies as Black, and both Julia and her cooperating teacher both identify as white. Julia’s comments also demonstrate how she sought to make sense of her own role within the writing workshop as a student teacher navigating power dynamics embedded in larger language ideologies (Lippi-Green, 2012). Given the ubiquity of error correction and the harmful impact of racialized repair of language minoritized students’ speech and written texts in schools (Martinez, 2017; Razfar, 2012), this interaction specifically and Julia’s case in general foregrounds a key issue in writing teacher education.

Julia’s case reveals important negotiations and interactions with her cooperating teacher when encountering standard language ideologies in the context of a writing workshop. This chapter focuses on moments of tension as she navigated language surveillance of racialized students and addresses the following research question: How does one pre-service English Language Arts teacher reconcile how her university English education program approached conferring in juxtaposition with how her cooperating teacher approached conferring as a form of writing feedback in the classroom?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Language Ideologies: The often-covert power dynamics underpinning notions of language that lead us to consider some languaging practices as superior to others. This sense of superiority is rooted in racial hierarchies and stems from white supremacy (see Lippi-Green, 2012).

Critical Incident: A classroom moment an educator deems important upon retrospective examination, even if it felt mundane at the time it occurred (see Tripp, 2012).

Linguistic Racism: Racism directed towards the way someone speaks and/or writes based on the association of particular ways of languaging with marginalized groups. Those who have internalized false notions that there is one single correct standardized way of writing and speaking often uphold linguistic racism.

White Mainstream English: Baker-Bell (2020) coined this term to refer to the idea that white supremacy informs the popularized understanding of one single correct English which is rooted in white ways of speaking and writing.

Direct Writing Assessment: The use of a student’s performance on a timed decontextualized writing task as an indicator of writing proficiency, neglecting the sociocultural nature of writing development (see Behizadeh, 2014).

Corrective Practices: The harmful but common tendency to identify student’s language “errors” (according to White Mainstream English) and correct them when these utterances and/or written texts are not actually mistakes but seen as such due to language ideologies (see Martinez, 2017; Razfar, 2012).

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: