Needless to say, each school is unique, but working at public schools schools with different strengths has provided us with insights how Sydney Story Factory can complement existing school curricula.
For example, during Term 1 we visited Kogarah Intensive English Centre (IEC). Kogarah IEC has been running for more than 25 years and is one of 14 IECs located in metropolitan Sydney and Wollongong. The first ever IEC in NSW was established in 1977 at Cleveland Street Intensive English Centre.
We had a fantastic time working with the kids at Kogarah IEC. They were from all kinds of backgrounds and all newly arrived in Australia. Each student spends a certain amount of time at IEC before 'graduating' to a mainstream high school. The classrooms at Kogarah IEC are probably going to be the most multilingual and multicultural we'll visit for State of Mind. An additional benefit we provided to the students was English conversation practice as they spoke to volunteers about their story ideas.
An interesting aspect of working with an IEC is hearing stories from overseas, indicating the diversity of students' life experiences:
Last year I went tomb-sweeping with my family. That day was a cloudy day but luckily wasn't raining. My dad lead us to the grave. My uncle had a whole pig to the grave - everyone had something.
My uncle lived with us in Ukraine. We had a big house and we had a business where we made honey. One day when I was 14 I sat in the kitchen and was drinking tea with my grandfather. My uncle walked in the kitchen very slowly - and he sat down on the chair but didn't eat anything...
Firstly, we put the charcoal in the BBQ machine. Secondly, we began putting the chicken and beef kebabs on the grill. Then we played some volley - it was amazing. At 9pm we decided to camp there because it was too dark to drive home even by using car lights. Suddenly we hear a scary voice...
Another unusual school we've worked with as part of State of Mind is Aurora College, the NSW Virtual Selective School. There are many selective schools in NSW but Aurora is the only which is available to students in rural and remote locations who are otherwise enrolled in a government high school.
The Aurora students attend additional classes using an online conference system (in addition to regular classes at their school) and twice a year, students are brought together for a residential camp. It was at one of these camps in Sydney that we had the chance to meet all the Year 9 and 10 students from Aurora. It was a great opportunity for us to reach kids who otherwise live in locations difficult for us to get to, and for us to learn more about them and read the kinds of true stories they like to write.
It was wonderful to hear from students whose lives can be very different to their city counterparts - though with technology and (social) media their lives might not be so different after all. Here's are five 'I Am' lines from different students who participated in our workshop at Aurora:
I am racing the paddock-basher
I am rain hammering on an iron roof, thunder in the distance
I am lying on a hammock on the Murray River
I am the rage when the internet is slow
I am singing along to Sam Smith in the shower