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.