During the 2013-2014 school year, Finding Voice worked with students of all English language proficiency levels, from true beginners to recently reclassified English Language Learner students looking for additional writing support and/or wanting to be part of the Finding Voice community and project work. This wide span led to interesting challenges for our collaborative learning teams, but also to varied and engaging work around themes that matter to all adolescents, regardless of language abilities, immigration status, or cultural background. Career dreams, education, love, living between two countries and cultures, and much more were topics the students talked about, read about, wrote about, and shared. It was a pleasure to engage with students from over 15 nations and support them in their efforts to not only master the English language, but to also find their footing in a new nation so as to make their long-term educational, career, and personal dreams come true.
During the Fall, 2013 semester, students decided to focus specifically on understanding careers and the demands of the academic and professional worlds here in the United States. They knew that there was much to learn in terms of what is required and expected in each of their desired fields and so the work we did that semester revolved around researching various career paths and learning what it would take to secure the jobs each student dreamed of holding one day. That research was conducted online, through career reports and industry websites, and via interviews with local professionals here in Tucson. Our gratitude and respect go out to every one of the 30+ experts and professionals in Tucson who took time out of their busy work lives to meet with students both on our high school campus and at various professional work centers – hospitals, offices, garages, the university – around town. Those exchanges were eye-opening for all involved, shifting students’ perceptions about what they needed to do to enter certain professional fields and career professionals’ notions of what local teens – especially those who may be struggling yet to master English – are capable of doing and why they are interested in joining in medical, engineering, environmental, fashion, law enforcement, IT, and other fields.
Deciding that the best audiences to share their research and learning with were other immigrant teens at both the middle and high school levels who may not have access to the information (especially the interviews of professionals in the field) they had gathered, the students created a website to share both their writing and the photos they took as part of their project and research work. Please check it out at: www.dreamcareers.edublogs.org.
Shifting themes but sticking to the production of websites (which students decided allowed them to reach the broadest possible audience including people living in countries outside the United States), Finding Voice students focused on love and education – two sides of a coin as one student put it – for their Spring, 2014 semester projects. They read about these topics, did personal explorations, interviewed students, family members, parents, neighbors, school teachers and counselors, and many more people, and then considered deeply – both individually and collectively – how to cultivate love in one’s life, pursue a quality life-long education, and find balance between the demands of school and personal life. This work is available on a website they designed at: www.kasperfindingvoice.wix.com/love-and-education.
Additionally, some beginning level ELD students in a different writing class – not wanting to be left out of the publishing work and having much to offer in their own right around related themes – produced a blog to share their voices and work. They wrote about 5 themes: love, education, technology, music, and home countries. Their work can be found at www.differentworlds.edublogs.org.