Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Tuesday fun at Two Writing Teachers!
Heads bent: over notebooks, over Chromebooks, towards each other.

Tiny islands of ideas scattered around the room: sunk into a pillow, at a desk beside the window, sprawled on the rug, huddled at a table.

Loud silence. Quiet chatter. Arabic. Spanish. English. Thoughts taking shape.

Heartbreaking, uplifting, sweet, excited, strong, scared, beautiful stories.

"... Palacio de Bellas Artes..."

"... my father come to study..."

"... how everyone was afraid and you didn't know what would happen..."

"... studying and playing with my friends..."

"... the government pay for everything so we can learn English..."

"... I walked for three months..."

"... the beautiful mountains..."

"... the American occupation of Iraq..."

"... we wait for six years..."

"... all students would go to a garden..."

"... the scary things happened..."

"... this is my fifth country..."

"... I'll ask my mom..."
"... and I was so nervous because I didn't know English..."

"... this year I want to tell my story..."

"... the war..."

Our school's multicultural celebration is always my favorite day of the year, and the weeks leading up to it are the most precious times in my classroom. But this year, more than ever, I've talked with my students about how this is their chance to combat ignorance and prejudice, especially in light of the negativity around immigration that has reared its ugly head over the past few months. This year, more than ever, my students really recognize how powerful their stories are.

Maybe it's the way I introduced the project this year. Maybe it's the fact that some of my students have experienced the event several times now, and their enthusiasm is sparking the minds and hearts of the others. Maybe it's the way we've been talking all year about being brave and strong. Maybe it's just magic, but my students are more willing than ever to share their incredible personal journeys, and I can't wait.

Today, before we continued storyboarding our ideas, we read "I, Too" by Langston Hughes. While he wrote it about being black, it's just as true for my amazing immigrant students, especially the marginalized refugees from the Middle East and Central & South America.

They'll see how beautiful I am 
And be ashamed --  

I, too, am America."
(Langston Hughes)


  1. Sounds like the magic all writing teachers dream of. Beautiful.

  2. I remember all the times you've shared this, Jennifer, such a beautiful night of celebration. I know the cultures don't fit every students, but the stories, like your poem, might work. Do you know this book by Alma Flor Ida. It's one of my very favorites, personal pieces written as if by students: http://www.amazon.com/Yes-We-Are-Latinos-Experience/dp/158089383X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1454470064&sr=1-1&keywords=alma+flor+ada+immigrant+stories Happy writing!

  3. I love the lines from stories floating across your blog page -- magnificent.
    Thank you so much!

  4. What an appropriate title for this piece, because it is a beautiful example of how you make a difference in students' lives. Not just the students in your care, but the entire building as they get to experience the other cultures that surround them.
    So many rich craft moves throughout this. I loved the loud silence, quiet chatter, islands of ideas, and especially the students' words. What an exciting day approaching!


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