Visualizing Language Learning: Narration Through a Lens
Storytellers and Community Partner Relationships:
How much do you know about the people who work at Providence College? Professors, sure, but how many Ray workers do you know by name? Do you know where they are from? Why do we know so little about the people who we co-exist with every day?
After enduring a turbulent relationship with English for Action (EFA), we decided the best thing to do is connect with a new community partner. Since the majority of us have already established relationship with the Ray workers through ESL sessions, we decided to expand on these relationships through photovoice classes.
For the past several weeks we have been coordinating and meeting with the Ray workers. About a month ago, after meeting with Haley (the head of the ESL program) we went to Ray during their morning meeting to present our idea. The workers were receptive to our idea, language learning through photography, and signed up. Since then we’ve met with three workers (Sonia, Lily, Marta) on Friday afternoons from 3:00-4:00pm. Other Ray workers have expressed interest but their breaks don’t align with our schedules. However, we are trying to figure out how we can make it work so the most amount of people can participate.
So far, we have enjoyed having all the learners meet in one session to enhance the community/collaborative learning aspect. However, we are experiencing challenges trying to accommodate everyone’s schedule and we’re contemplating one-on-one photovoice and language learning sessions.
We have been able to build a relationship with Ray management through meeting with them to explain our project. Additionally, to build rapport with our community partners, last Friday we shared a couple of photos from our autobiographies to ease them into the photovoice process and show a model for what we will be doing in the future. Also, we are all (whether it’s Spanish to English for us or English to Spanish for them, we are all experiencing it together). Finally, Lily, Marta and Sonia were receptive and excited to bring their photos next week.
Since we have only met with the group twice, we are still trying to ease into the photovoice process. Furthermore, we are still figuring out the camera situation from the grant we were awarded. Last week we presented photos from our autobiographies as an example of how you can tell a story through a photo and take ownership over the photography process. Once we secure our cameras, we plan to give each CPs a camera and a prompt to help facilitate the photography process. We will give them a camera Friday with a prompt and have them bring them back Friday where we can download the pictures and talk about their photography experience at the session.
Some photovoice prompts that we have thought up include:
- Autobiography/identity/Who are you
- Day in the life of Ray
- Why did you apply to work at PC?
- How was your transition into the States?
- What is your vision of PC?
- What are some language challenges that you encounter on a daily basis?
- What are you afraid of?
- Something that challenges you
- Challenges in communication
- Example: Marta voiced not being able to negotiate with her boss about when to come in and not being able to ask work-related questions
One interesting new development that we have seen is that non-Spanish speaking Ray workers have an interest in learning Spanish. However, we are still trying to accommodate a time when we can meet with them. As of now, our schedules conflict because they don’t have breaks the same time as the other Ray workers do. (Aside: why do the Spanish speakers break together, and the non-Spanish speakers break together?)
We’ve seen firsthand the connections and intersectionality between race and language and the role it plays on empowering or suppressing someone’s identity. Language learning is a key component for non-native English speakers to function in America.
What our goal is, however, is to have them learn English (or Spanish, or Polish, Russian, Portuguese, Creole) while retaining their original cultures. We are trying to reclaim “learning English” from something that is necessary to something that is positively contributing to creating a community.
Our project has a global component inherent in its mission; language is global in itself, and all three of the CPs that we are working with are from outside the United States. Through these interactions, and using photovoice to facilitate conversations, issues regarding immigration, US policy and the conditions that prompted them to leave and come here have surfaced. In terms of language and globality, this directly demonstrates the role of the global economy in determining the languages that are valued most in societies and the languages that hold little currency.
Final Event/Social Change Questions
Determining the “best” audience to attend our final event is one of our biggest struggles right now. This upcoming Friday, we plan on asking the CPs who their target audience would be. Who do they want to hear their stories?
Ideally, we will have an audience of people who feel strongly about language policy and language learning in the education system. Our goals for social change ranges from building confidence when speaking English, to getting them more breaks to examining the citizenship test and making the language easier for those who have to take it.
(We aren’t sure how to go about finding out if our CPs are, in fact, citizens without overstepping our boundaries. Any advice on how to find out, in an accommodating and not accusatory way, would be great!) Citizenship might not even be a problem, this will unfold through photovoice.
Friday, March 1st:
- Meet with CPs at 3:00pm and go over powerpoint (which explains who, what, where, why, when, how of our purpose for photovoice)
- Re-visit consent forms
- Finalize more meeting times with those who can’t make the Friday at 3pm time slot
- Ideally give them cameras depending on the grant money, if not give them a prompt and have them take photos on their phone
- Prompt: Autobiography
- What is PC?
- What are you afraid of?
- Have them write a short blurb about their photos
Friday, March 8th (Spring Break)
(Monday, March 11: Bring the idea of ‘learning’ campus-wide)
Put up removable chalkboard in Slavin with following open-ended question:
(Last week, we came up with the idea of bringing the concept of “learning” to the PC campus. We have been in contact with Elena Ye and Sharon Hay about putting up a removable, wall-sized chalkboard in Slavin for a week and leaving chalk. This will give us a new perspective on how college students/faculty/employees conceptualize learning and education)
Friday, March 15th:
- Go over photos
- Have them read aloud their blurbs about their photos
- Give them two more prompt questions:
- Prompt: (making it increasingly personalized)
- How was your transition to the States?
- What is your biggest challenge?
- Discuss final event:
- Who do you want to come?
- Display photos?
- On campus, or off campus?
- Smith Hill?
Friday, March 22:
- (Repeat process)
- Prompt: theme: communication
- What does Spanish mean to you?
- What does English mean to you?
Friday, April 5th:
- Reflect on photovoice
- Sit down and talk about which photos to include, edit, start compiling a photovoice documentary
- Prompt: At this point, we want them to take charge of the remaining photos they will take and choose their own prompt
Friday, April 12th:
Friday, April 19th:
An event will happen at the end of April/Early May
Overall Questions / Challenges
We have experienced a significant amount of challenges surrounding schedules, availability, and the actual amount of time we can meet with them. One hour is not enough! We are also struggling in deciding whether or not it is worth it to shift from group to individual sessions. Also, only 3/5 of the group is fluent in Spanish, which is difficult in terms of building rapport and conversing sometimes. However, this provides a platform for Grace and Brenna to learn/improve Spanish while the CPs learn English.
Additionally, we don’t want their honesty in the photovoice process to be impeded by ethics. For example, if we give them a prompt about challenges or difficulties, we don’t want them to not be able to document Ray (if that correlates with the prompt) because of fear of getting in trouble.
Also, we aren’t sure how we can get this off-campus and, at this point, we’re not sure what the social change is. Finally, we want to further distinguish ourselves from the normal ESL program we have on campus.
Peace, love and language learning for life!