I never say we’re going to learn our culture, but the kids learn it because they’re living it. In our journal writing circles I don’t necessarily say, we’re going to explore our identity, yet most of the time this is what we do.
I’ve found the most successful journaling circles are when the kids have common bonds and emotional links with each other such as growing up Native American or Korean American or having been adopted transracially. I keep the majority of the writing topics open and flexible and not centered on adoption, or ethnicity and identity. Slants specific to those topic areas spring up automatically and will present themselves in a far more creative light than if I’d forced the subject. Yet usually I add one or maybe two writing topics in specific areas common to the group experience. Recently with a group of daughters adopted from China I opened by saying, “Name three ways in which you think of yourself as being typically Asian, and three ways in which you don’t.” I had a second specific theme to suggest they write on later on, except the group bent over their note pads and wrote fast, like the wind, and they spent the rest of the hour talking about a spin off comment, namely “If you could tell the kids at school exactly what you are thinking when they ask—but where are you really from?”
The traditional way, which is observed when Native people gather for the purpose of a “Talking Circle”, is for everyone to sit in a circle, of course. One person begins talking from their heart and they hold the “talking stick” while speaking, and have the opportunity to talk uninterrupted. When the person is finished speaking they pass the “talking stick” to the person next to them, and we go around the circle until everyone who wants to talk has had a chance to speak. We are supportive listeners and refrain from offering suggestions or finding fixes because this cuts off the flow of conversation, respect and trust.
© 2008 Terra Trevor. All rights reserved.