Cultural collaborations through mindful creative writing course
“We live in a world that is divided. We build judgements and create stereotypes about people we do not know. Even though we often live, work and learn beside each other – we do not really know each other. When we know each other and really listen to each other’s stories or experience, we can then come to learn from each other,” explains educator Kyla McIntyre, laying down the reasoning for the Sheldon-Williams Collegiate Mindful Creative Writing course, designed to shift this narrative.
There are 14 students in this class. They come from many different cultures and languages. Some are newcomers and some are born in Canada. Some speak fluent English and others are just
beginning. This course actively encourages students of different backgrounds to come together to share their stories of experience with each other. One of the main goals of this course is to support belonging and inclusion, facilitating intercultural connections. Throughout this course, students learned about their own stories and were given tools to share them with others. Instead of learning about culture and diversity from books and the internet, students learn from each other and create relationships. The process of creative writing and practicing mindfulness each day forms a community of learners.
A Multicultural Education Initiatives grant from MCoS partially supports spoken word artist Cat Abenstein to work with this class. She is a weekly presence and supports students through all phases of their writing from drafting, editing, sharing and even performing in front of the school. Cat uses her professional artist experience to support students to truly find and share their voices.
Grade 11 student, Amie LeGrand, reflects upon the impact of the mindful creative writing course: “In creative writing, we talk about the culture of everyone in the class and get to know each other and what they have experienced. We talk about the uncomfortable topics and write about them in poems, songs and speeches – this opens our minds. The work that I have seen from my classmates is astounding. To have such students at Sheldon just shows how multicultural we are as a school and that we are more unified than we realize… I’ve learned that fear or uncertainty creates prejudice and this leads to the act of discrimination, by learning about each other this is where we can end discrimination.”
During the school’s March 21 celebration, students share the work they have created in class and this ripples through the school community to create true inclusion and belonging. Students have an opportunity to hear stories of experience from cultures they likely would not otherwise hear. These students also share their work at a school celebration attended by over 500 students. The media is invited to this event as well and then their stories are shared worldwide. Some of the poems were recorded for CBC and then played over the radio. In addition, many students have shared work created in this class at other events such as reconciliation events, a Settlement Support Workers in Schools (SSWIS) conference and an English as an Additional Language (EAL) teacher’s conference. In addition, in 2017, the students published a book with Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation (SCIC) – so the work that is developed in the course becomes part of the community.
Do you want to know Mays Al Jamous?
By Amie LeGrand
What should I tell you about her?
The girl who has beautiful almond skin?
How would I describe her?
Would you like to get to know her?
Her kindness is known and shared to all
With her smile that makes everyone’s heart bounce with joy and delight.
She has bravery in her.
She may be soft spoken but what lays within her is a dangerous fire.
She has seen death by gunfire when people tried to hide and take cover.
She heard bombs and high-pitched screams when air fleets targeted her home streets.
Her experience and story of her life there has wise words with a ray of light for guidance and hope.
She now lives in Canada, eh!
With Saskatchewan’s flat grounds and minus fifty below weather.
Does she truly love the snowy weather?
Who the hell knows.
She will always miss Syria
Memories filled with love
She dreams of her bright future with a medical degree
And her children playing by her family tree Now that her country is now free
Now that I’ve told you about her
Would you like to know more
From the one, the only, Mays Al Jamous?
Being a Refugee
By Mays Al Jamous
Every person has a different experience
I can only share my experience
I am from Syria
I am a refugee
People who leave their countries
People who don’t have homes
People who face difficult choices
People will understand their feelings
People will not judge them at first sight
People will treat them like human beings
This refugee has
Dreams and hopes like you do
Feelings and heart like you do
Family and friends like you do
This refugee wishes
There would be no racism
There would be no discrimination
There would be no hate
This refugee is asking you to
Every person has a different experience
I shared my experience
I am Mays from Syria
I am a strong refugee
By: Sunny Sun
Many people have asked me the same question
What is it like to be a newcomer?
This is an ordinary question, however, it’s complicated to answer
Canada is a wonderful place
Multiple cultures make Canada more attractive
However, there will always be some issues and challenges in our lives
I believe newcomers to Canada will be perplexed by plentiful issues
In the first few days, weeks, months, even years
Everyone gets shocked by things that are new to them
Our worldview collapses and shatters into pieces
We learn new social contracts
Things that we were familiar with are gone
New paradigms are formed
Ideologies that we were taught get inverted
Things that were right, now become wrong
The origin of these problems
Leads us to the main point
I have heard people say that English
Is the reason why newcomers get isolated
I am in total agreement with this
I believe 99.99 percent of conflicts or issues are related to English
The process of learning a new language is a long journey for everyone
Without English, you can’t communicate and you won’t receive any information
Sometimes not having enough English
Makes me feel like I am in a cage
It locks me inside and separates the world from me
Another problem that I think lots of newcomers will face
Is wanting to stay with people who speak their first language
This is something really common and there’s nothing wrong with it
Meeting new people is difficult
No one wants to be pushed out of their comfort zone
But one day you will have to make a friend who is a Canadian
The quicker you meet new people
The quicker your English will improve
The quicker you will feel belonging
Your friends might correct your mistakes
But don’t be shy, take advantage
Isn’t that what friends are for?
Making friends stops the suffering, the endless loneliness
Everyone will be proud of you
You will be proud of yourself
Sheldon-Williams Collegiate Mindful Creative Writing Course Video
Sheldon-Williams Collegiate in Regina, SK offers a Mindful Creative Writing Course. The program focuses on bringing youth from different backgrounds together to share their stories. Students use mindfulness to better understand themselves and the world around them. One of the main goals of the Mindful Creative Writing course is to help students gain a better understanding and make connections across different cultures.