Update; Tying Together Different Perspectives

Leaving our day at Winooski and Burlington we had redefined the story we were looking to uncover. We turned our attention to our own schools to see if we could identify a contrast between the experiences of ELL students in schools with more diversity ( Burlington and Winooski) and ELL students in schools with very little diversity (our own high schools and middle schools). We also wanted to conduct interviews with non-ELL students to see what they knew about ELL education.

In the few weeks that have past, we have made a lot of progress in the way of accomplishing our goals. Gretta and I spent one of our free blocks interviewing an exchange student from Kazakhstan as well as some of our friends.  It was a really great experience and we got some valuable responses out of our conversations. The exchange student, Diana was able to explain the experience of coming to America for the first time, her experiences and the differences between Middlebury high school and the schools in Kazakhstan. However, she wasn’t put in an ELL program and she didn’t know anything about the program or its students. The same went for the American-born students; they didn’t know anything about ELL or that it even existed at our school. Hearing their responses made me reflect back to the beginning of the year when I had about the same level of knowledge surrounding the topic. Another thing that struck me as interesting is that they all were under the impression that other schools in Vermont carried about the same amount of diversity as ours (our school has hardly any diversity). This also related back to my prior knowledge. Even though I had met people from Winooski and knew that their school had a much higher percentage of new Americans, I was still taken by surprise at just how different it was when I actually visited the school.

However, during the process of comparing our own school to more diverse schools in the state we have hit a few roadblocks. What we really need in addition to the perspectives of American-born students is the perspectives of the ELL students themselves. I knew that there was an ELL class in the painting room at the end of the day, as I spend a good amount of time in that room. So I decided to contact the teacher via email to see if Gretta and I could sit-in on a class and possibly conduct some interviews. Gretta went and contacted another ELL teacher from our school district to ask the same. Unfortunately, things didn’t go exactly as we had planned. Both teachers agreed that neither of them were in positions to speak about the program on camera and that filming the class or its students would be a violation of individual privacy. So were are unable to provide any perspective from the ELL students at Middlebury. In addition to this challenge,  we found out that not all of our schools even have ELL programs. We are still hoping to get a few interviews from ELL students but it won’t be the same kind of balance in perspective that we were hoping for.

We certainly will have a lot of material to work with, what we really need to focus our attention on is defining a narrative. I’m sure during the next couple work sessions we will be able to devise a way to convey a clear message to our audience using the footage and knowledge we have collected. Our next task will be to articulate exactly what that message will be.

Kati Tolgyesi

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