2016-2017 Germanacos Fellow Elizabeth Tidrick teaches World Literature at Monte Del Sol Charter School in Santa Fe, NM. With a high population of English language learners and immigrant students, Liz helps her students identify their own roles in global culture. To achieve this, Liz developed an oral history project that provided her students the opportunity to explore their family histories in a creative and personal way.

For the project, each student interviewed family members and crafted narratives that charted their family’s journeys to the present. Liz’s goal was to help her students understand the external forces that influenced how their families came to their present day formations, while practicing their research and language skills.

To enhance the project further, Liz added a multimedia component by creating a 65-minute film of her 45 students sharing the oral histories they collected. Her 10th graders were in charge of every aspect, from editing their interviews to editing the video, and she used her funding to purchase the equipment needed for the film.

The culminating film depicts a broad array of topics and family histories, including border crossings, domestic violence, and incarceration.

When recounting the process, she brought up her initial worries that the students would not take the project seriously, but as the interviews and recordings went on, each student became dedicated to preserving and honoring their family’s story.

All of the students were willing [to share their names]. We didn’t put any last names up. No one actually said, ‘My family’s undocumented.’ They just talked about experiences. They were all aware of it, but they just got into it and were really proud of their stories and wanted to tell everyone where their family had come from. —Liz Tidrick

Liz started early in the school year by introducing the concept of the project and scaffolding interview skills right away. She separated the students into groups by strength and interest, with the “Setting Committee” working on decorations and scenery, the “Filming Committee” in charge of the camera, the “Editing Committee” for audiovisual help, and the “Writing Committee” to help peers with selecting excerpts and quotes. Every student in each class had a dedicated role, not just to their own oral history, but to the project as a whole.

Despite some anxiety and nerves, all 45 students were willing to record their stories for the film. The final product is a diverse collection of heartbreaking and hopeful stories. We hope you enjoy watching!