English language teaching continues to define the “intercultural” from narrow social scientific and positivist perspectives where intercultural competencies derive from conceptualizations of culture from a nationalist lens (Kubota, 2004; R’boul, 2020), and pre-service teachers (PSTs) are most commonly apprenticed into viewing their roles from positions that sanitize the act of teaching English and reduce intercultural understandings to essentializing praxis. As such, PSTs struggle when challenged to confront critical reframings of interculturality that foreground the sociohistorical shaping of cultured ways of being in classrooms that emerge from the unequal distribution of power and dominance in which culture becomes a site of struggle (Kubota & Miller, 2017; Moon, 1996; Motha, 2006). This qualitative study drew on Critical Cultural Awareness (Guilherme, 2002) and Critical Whiteness Studies in teacher education (DiAngelo, 2012; Marx, 2006; Picower, 2009; Sleeter, 2008; White, 2012) in analyzing PSTs’ weekly written reflections during a semester of TESL undergraduate coursework. Findings offer insights into the identity, ideological, and emotional conflicts white PSTs navigated when reflecting on critical intercultural worldviews that often clashed with their prior lived experiences and expectations for becoming English language teachers. PSTs’ engagement in self-reflexivity revealed the delicate and complex intersection of harm and hope as they reimagined their future classrooms as critical intercultural spaces.
Amanda J. Swearingen is a PhD student in Second Language Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Minnesota.
Samuel David is an Assistant Professor of Second Language Education at the University of Minnesota.