When the students were first presented with the idea of entering a competition that would focus on their gifts, they showed little interest. They didn’t welcome having a camera pointed at them, nor did they think they could finish the sentence “My gift is…”. After brainstorming possible talents, they were able to identify with some examples and create “I”-statements to express their gifts. This exercise of self-analysis and taking personal inventory, which they rejected and considered intimidating at first, gave the students a sense of confidence and empowerment which will influence their ability to take risks in language learning – to voice their ideas and attempt assignments that may seem difficult – and actively participate in a new community.
This video competition also gave the newcomer students the opportunity to build community within the class and beyond. New to the country, province, city, and school, these students have had few opportunities to interact, and so this project created an environment where they learned more about each other – their interests and their languages – and encouraged each other to take risks. The collaboration with Mr. Perrotta, Vice Principal, in creating the video furthered these students’ sense of recognition. Therefore, in addition to the literal experience of seeing each other’s faces, the students felt seen – by themselves, their school, and the greater TCDSB community.