Stories of Home: An Update
In the Fall 2021 Alchemy edition, we introduced a new project set up by a team from the English as a Second Language (ESL) department: Nataly Shaheen, Claudia Daniela Cirip, Sara Cordeiro Alexandre, Suzanne Soares, and Diana Catargiu. We are now delighted to announce that Stories of Home has received a $10,000 Scholarship, Research and Creative Activities (SRCA) grant, and because our last article was just an overview of the project, we would like to provide more context this time.
Despite the switch to online learning, student enrolment in our ESL program has been increasing steadily, and this term alone we have over 700 registered students. These students have a wide variety of backgrounds in terms of country of birth, education, and professional experience. In addition, their status in Canada ranges from permanent residents, protected persons and refugees, and Canadian citizens, to international visa students. The wealth of their personal narratives is remarkable, but – because they are non-native speakers of English – they often hesitate to share their stories, which is a loss to our Sheridan community.
In Critical Storytelling: Multilingual Immigrants in the United States (2021), Polina Vinogradova talks about her experience as a non-native English speaker studying in a master’s program in the United States. Being a non-native speaker “implies a position of deficit,” she writes. “Instead of emphasizing that I comfortably lived and worked in two languages, I was focusing on who I was not (as in not a native speaker of English).” The Stories of Home project aims to give our diverse ESL learners a voice, to provide an opportunity for them to reflect on their identity, on the empowering risks they are taking by studying and functioning in a language other than their own, on the power of being bilingual or multilingual – in short, to focus on who they really are, and not on who or what they aren’t.
The ESL community, however, is not limited to just students. ESL faculty, administrators, and Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL Plus) students – who do their teaching practicum in our ESL classes – support and interact with the ESL students on a regular basis. Their voices and personal narratives are intrinsically intertwined with those of our students. The Stories of Home project aims to capture and showcase the stories of this diverse yet tightly knit ESL community; this, in turn, will help create connections and build bridges between its members and with the larger Sheridan community.
The two main goals of this project are to:
- Set up a website where our participants can share creative work that explores their heritage and identity, but also their Canadian journey. This work will include written pieces, images (illustration and photography), audio and video material.
- Publish a Stories of Home anthology. The anthology will include written pieces (poems, stories, recipes), illustration and photography.
The content will be generated as part of:
- Non-graded class activities, such as: getting-to-know-you and warm-up activities, collaborative work, writing journals, and discussion boards. The project team will work closely with the students in their own classrooms to generate content from these activities and will use the editing process to help students with their language skills. The project team will also liaise with ESL and TESOL Plus faculty who wish to partake in this project on a regular basis to help identify and select content. The participation in this project is voluntary on students and faculty’s parts.
- Co-curricular activities, such as the ESL Reading Club, the ESL Student Forum, Show and Tell and open-mic sessions – each of these currently held by the ESL program on an ongoing basis. Students, faculty, and staff who participate in these co-curricular activities can choose to share their work with our team on a voluntary basis.
- Interviews with contributors to the project
The idea for the Stories of Home project emerged from an activity that kicked off the 2021 Spring-Summer ESL Reading Club and was an opportunity for participants to share something about themselves in creative form. The activity was inspired by George Ella Lyon’s Where I Am From poem and the https://iamfromproject.com website. Because the English language levels in our ESL program range from beginner to advanced, we assured the students that we welcomed all their creations, regardless of language level. The submissions we received were deep and meaningful and exceeded our expectations, and the success of this activity has been proof of our students’ eagerness to share more about their identity, diverse cultural background, and personal experiences. We published several student poems in the Fall 2021 edition of Alchemy.
This time, we are sharing two pieces generated by students in the advanced level: an I Am From poem by Elizabeth Milagros Saravia Chira, and a video in which Jihye Ryu tells us what becoming an adult means to her.
I am from I am from the land of the vast desert whose drawn lines can be deciphered only from high up in the sky I am from traditions from dancing to the rhythm of cajon and making our own wine from the rich picarones with honey in the afternoon and long carnival summers I am from folklore and a thousand trades I am from a humble, hard-working family Elizabeth Milagros Saravia Chira (Peru)
Finally, if you have a story that you would like to share, do not hesitate to get in touch with us:
Diana Catargiu – firstname.lastname@example.org
Nataly Shaheen – email@example.com.
Javier, P. H. L., & Trịnh, E. T. (2021). Critical storytelling: Multilingual immigrants in the United States. Brill Sense.
Lyon, G. E. (n.d.). Where I’m from, a poem by George Ella Lyon, writer and teacher. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from http://www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html