Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Programming Done Right

A blog post by Rachael Binning, outreach coordinator.

Because I only started my job as Outreach Coordinator a few weeks ago I currently have the luxury of observing and shadowing the other staff members on their various project. I got to watch Jobi lead a collections meeting where the Collections Committee decided on what objects should be accessioned into JMM’s vast collection. I’ve followed Deborah and Elena while they led school groups galore through the “A Blessing to One Another” exhibit, and most recently I got to be a participant in Ilene Dackman-Alon’s “Student Immigration Stories.” For the past two Mondays I have traveled to Patterson High School to visit Ms. Franklin’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Class. My experiences were so positive that I decided that I must share a few of them with you .

A few blog posts ago Ilene wrote a bit about “Student Immigration Stories” so I won’t go into the minute details of the program. Instead I’ll give you some visuals to accompany my story.

First, before the class started Ilene, Ms. Franklin, and myself pushed the desks to the side and made a big circle so that the students and teachers were able to sit together and talk. I love the idea of everyone sitting in a circle together because in this class everyone is equal and everyone has a story.

Preparing the room.

Soon the after the bell rang around sixteen students from countries as varied as the Dominican Republic, Nepal, and Eritrea rushed into the classroom. After the class settled down Jennifer Rudick Zunikoff, the storyteller and facilitator, asked each of us to say our names, where we are from, and how to say hello in our native tongue. What impressed me the most today was that despite the fact that there were about six students who spoke Spanish, they were from countries ranging from Mexico to Honduras. Although they spoke the same language, they each had their own accents and terms unique to their country. Lisbeth, who is from the Dominican Republic said that Dominicans tend not to pronounce “s” so when she says good morning in Spanish is sounds like “bueno dia” compared to “buenos dias.”

Lisbeth is from the Dominican Republic and Katie is from Honduras.
Both girls speak Spanish, but have different accents.

Ms. Sally Franklin and her students sitting together as we introduce ourselves.

Jennifer leading the class in a storytelling exercise.
Notice how the students face each other when they share their stories.

The three translators in the class who also shared their stories with us.

The premise of the class is to get students to share stories about their lives with each other. Each time I have participated in these storytelling exercises I have been extremely humbled by the students’ amazing tales and many hardships they have already endured.

I’d like to finish this blog with one final special moment from my experience. Jennifer told the class to think about a family member and a special memory we had with them. She had us actually travel in our minds back to a time with that person and visualize what we were doing with them. For this storytelling experience I was partnered with Agatha, a translator in the class from West Africa. I told Agatha about my memory with my Grandma Sharon. Grandma Sharon didn’t have a lot to give us monetarily, but she was so generous with her love and time. When my sister and I would stay over at Grandma Sharon’s house we would always have a tea party, which consisted of drinking tea heavily diluted with milk in special mini teacups and saucers. We would also have special frosted animal cookies, which was a big treat because we were not allowed to have those at home. Over glasses of tea we would sit around the table and talk and share stories. This was always the highlight of our trip to grandma’s.

Agatha heard this and was immediately reminded of her memories with her grandmother. She would travel from her urban home to her grandmother’s rural house to spend time with her. She would share stories with her grandmother while sitting around a fire and roasting maize. Agatha and I come from extremely different places and from different times, but we both had the same memory of sharing time with our grandmothers.

My entire experience at Patterson High School has been so moving and meaningful. On one hand I’ve realized how lucky and easy my childhood was compared to most of the students in Ms. Franklin’s class. At the same time, I’ve also realized how many similarities and common values I have with my new friends.

1 comment:

Aliza said...

What a fantastic program!