where i’m from

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As a teacher of English as a second language, I consistently meet students from all over the world.  The question “Where are you from?” is very common in my classroom.  I myself am frequently asked this question after people learn that I speak Spanish.  In both of these cases, a one word answer of a country or a city never seems to fully capture the essence and complexity of a person’s identity.  For this reason, I was so excited about a project that my students worked on that quickly became a source of some of my favorite moments from this school year.

The project consisted of reading a poem entitled “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon, and using it as an inspiration for a personal poem.  Instead of answering “Where are you from?” with an answer about a physical location, it involves sharing memories about different aspects of your childhood, heritage, and upbringing to represent where you are from on a deeper level.

Although my students were hesitant about writing poetry, and some were even resistant to sharing about their personal lives, I could not have been more moved by their final poems.  Some of them brought tears to my eyes, as I learned so much about each student and all the things that make them unique.  I also personally enjoyed writing my own poem, and reflecting on the different aspects of my heritage and family that have impacted and shaped me…

I am from picnic tablecloths on the living room floor,
from homemade play dough and wooden toys.
I am from the kitchen table
(solid, smooth, covered with eraser shavings and crayon marks).
I am from the honeysuckles blooming along the backyard fence,
The pecan trees dropping the pecans,
like treasures waiting to be found, just like my future dreams and desires.

I am from astigmatism and big noses,
from Carley and Reiner.
I am from the bookworms and the storytellers.
From you can do it, and don’t give up.
I’m from “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest,”
and prayers before bedtime.

I am from Driespitz and Valencia,
from arroz con leche and cream cheese dip.
From the books my mother read to me as a child,
the hours my father spent helping me with my homework.

On the walls, in the photo albums filed away
on the shelf beneath the stairs,
sit all these memories of past smiles and joys,
a picture of things to come for future generations.


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