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An Interesting Visitor
by Michael Domoney, Bandon Grammar School, Co. Cork.
It was my intention at the beginning to get the pupils (2nd years) to interview an old person in their community as their project for this module (on Interdependence). I wasn't really sure how it would go. I was afraid that all the pupils would come back with stories that would bore all concerned. I was game to see what would happen. If it all went wrong then there was always third year.
I used the Favela stories from Trocaire as my starting point where the pupils role-played the 'Nelson', 'Helena', 'Fabio' and 'Dona' characters. This took two lessons to complete. Then the pupils listed the basic needs of the community in Sao Paula and identified those people that helped the community to achieve those needs and those that made it difficult for them. A discussion ensued. The pupils wrote a letter to the Mayor describing what it is like to live in the favelas of Sao Paula and what they would like the Mayor to do for them. Feedback followed. I wanted the pupils to now focus on their own community and describe what it is like to live in that community. This also took two lessons.
Discussion was very much part of each lesson and as a result of these I got the pupils to make a list of possible projects. I 'selected' one from their list: "Interview someone in our community" (one lesson) The pupils made out a set of questions that they were going to ask their chosen interviewee (one lesson). They did their interview as part of their homework and in the next lesson there was great enthusiasm - much better than I could have imagined. One person even taped their interview and wrote it up afterwards. Each person read out his or her interview (two lessons). I asked the following questions towards the end of the second lesson: "What was it like to make the arrangements for the interview". "What was interesting about this interview"? "What new information did you receive"? "What was it like for the person being interviewed." Then I asked a question and I'm not really sure why, "Would anybody like to invite their interviewee into the class ?" One pupil said yes straight away, his grandmother would love to come in.
The following number of lessons where then used to prepare for the visit. On the morning of the visit there was great excitement. The classroom was prepared with great enthusiasm. I felt that the pupils should sit in a circle rather than in the normal classroom style so the desks had to be moved out of the way. Two pupils met our guest at the main reception and brought her to the classroom. Her daughter (mother of the pupil) came with her. A video camera was set up to preserve this for posterity. That was a bit distracting at the beginning but not for long. The grandson was one of two chairpersons who welcomed his granny to our class. He then fielded questions from the pupils one at a time. The answers were very interesting and forthright, she held her audience very well. She remembered a poem that she wrote many years ago and recited a little of it for us. The questions had a lot to do with her past, where she was born and where did she grow up. They also probed a little into some personal questions, like husband and family, which were answered with ease. The time allowed for this meeting was 45 minutes and we just had enough time. The meeting ended with the other chairperson saying thanks and inviting two pupils to come forward to present some flowers, chocolates and a card. I then went for some tea with them and some quiet reflection. They enjoyed their visit and felt it was really worthwhile.
(Note: This activity was reported on through the Course Work Assessment Book)