Thursday, March 1, 2018

Uniquely united

Day 1 of 31 at TWT!
"I'm not nervous anymore!" K. bounced up to me, her blonde ponytail swinging, all of the tension she'd been carrying an hour ago clearly washed away. "Do you know what the coolest thing I learned was? In Syria they have a food that's just like one we have in Albania, with even the same name!"

"Yeah, and in Egypt we have something that's just like what they have in Argentina!" M. chimed in.

After a class period practicing their mini-presentations with their squad groups, my students were all fired up for the main event: our school's annual "Global Cafe", featuring over a hundred student displays showcasing our diversity. American students research their family's heritage, but my ELLs particularly shine as they bring their cultures alive with unique pride. Hundreds of students and staff members voluntarily fill the cafeteria for two hours after school to learn, share, and celebrate each other.

Balancing everything from Libyan pasta to Venezuelan arroz con leche to Iraqi baklava on my clipboard, I float through a vibrant sea of color, music, flavor, and the sweet chatter of unbridled pride meeting genuine curiosity.
K. teaches me all about Albania!
"I just have to tell you..." a science teacher comes bounding up to me. "Your student from Argentina... I think his name is M... he just did an amazing job! He was so enthusiastic and informative!"
As I scarf down some sweets from Qatar to make room for alfajores from Argentina, M. shows me how he organized his display by geographic regions. 
"Mrs. M!" S. practically skips up to me with a smile so big it might stretch right off her face. "There was a girl, and I wrote her name on her hand! Can I do yours?"
I hold still while S, in traditional Syrian clothes, writes my last name in Arabic on my hand with Henna!

A. gives my daughter a card where he wrote her name in Arabic!
M, in traditional clothing, teaches my daughter and me about Egypt!
When we have the time and space to share our stories, our differences remind us how similar we all really are.


  1. What a way to let your students shine! So interesting to find the similarities between cultures. I wish I lived closer so I could come to learn about these countries.

  2. Your last line" ...our differences remind us how similar we all really are." Perfect. If only some adults and those "in charge" would attend their own global cafe.

    I was happy to see your slice tonight!

  3. Oh, wow! What an amazing experience for your students to celebrate WHO THEY ARE!! And your last line captured the essence of your learning: "When we have the time and space to share our stories, our differences remind us how similar we all really are." That's a line that is destined in a picture book!

    So excited to be on this month-long writing journey again with you, Jennifer! And your "baby" girl!!! She is growing up! Oh, where does the time go ... enjoy every moment. Happy writing!


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