This project has finally come to life! We concocted this project back in November of 2015 shortly after the terrorist attacks on the Bataclan in Paris, France. We were curious and determined to build upon a grant our colleagues began in 2014 in Israel – developing identity through displacement. Our project began to take more concrete form those winter months as we balanced grant writing with the day-to-day grind of teaching. I began with the Language Arts I course in a unit of displacement tied to narrative writing. While opening this unit, I realized my students needed to also start wondering about displacement. Thus, I began the 2016 calendar year of LA 1 Unit 4 on displacement with a student simulation. I began Wednesday morning of that week by physically displacing my students from my classroom. My rationale was that to understand, you need to feel.
Paradoxically, displacement is essentially that: a lack of feeling because of not belonging.
I need to understand deeper forms of displacement, and in order to understand I need to feel it. Hence bringing it back to the formation of this project and winter 2016. That cold January morning, with my stern teacher face on, I displaced my students before they stepped foot into my classroom.
“You three go to McMillian’s.”
“You two can go to Brenner’s classroom.”
“I guess you are going to Giesler’s classroom.”
“Pistone’s classroom, now.”
“I don’t know. Just leave.”
The 9th graders were confused. Some laughed out of nervousness or because they thought they was it a joke. BUT they still went where I told them.
“Oh you can come inside, but not you because you are a girl.”
“Sure all come in! Just don’t talk. And sit in the back.”
“I know you. Come here. Everyone else leave.”
Giesler to her class: “Should we let them in? No? Okay.”
My students were all accounted for when I rounded them up about five minutes later where we all talked about their experience.
“Why did Mr. Pistone not let me in? I thought he was a friend.”
“Ms. Giesler’s class is so mean! They turned against us.”
“Mr. Beach is awesome. He let us look in a microscope! They shared what they had.”
“Mrs. McMillian’s room was so hot.”
“I was so lost.”
“Why did you make us leave? I was scared.”
Well, what are we wondering? What happens when you are not allowed in your place of comfort? What if that happened to you one day? What if that place was your home? What if everything you called home disappeared? How do you tell your story of displacement? How can you tell your family’s story?
To understand, you need to feel; you need to engage.
If only for a few minutes, that simple experiment helped my students to feel displaced. It also helped them to wonder more about themselves to decide what they wanted to focus their Unit 4 writing project.
We began this trip wondering so much. We are hoping our wondering will help us to understand, to feel, and to engage, so that we can learn. That learning is the key to collaboration in the classroom with our students.
What we are wondering:
How are people displaced?
Can someone be voluntarily displaced?
What is the difference?
Where do allegiances lie?
How/Why should people care?
What is the immigrant story?
How does identity shift or change?
Why do people continue to displace others?
How can we do justice telling other people’s stories?
Who needs to tell the story?
What questions are you wondering? Please comment below.