FHS students find 'sweet richness of shared stories' in not-so-average assignment
English class interviewed Fredericton seniors about cherished objects
In November, a Fredericton High School teacher brought her Grade 9 class to the Ste. Anne's Court retirement centre for an unusual assignment.
Awaiting the students were seniors, each with a cherished object and a story to tell.
English teacher Valerie Marshall's goal was to connect the younger generation with their elders. She had the students interview the seniors about their beloved object with the hope of publishing a book someday and revisiting the retirement home.
On Thursday, the seniors got their first look at the finished product.
"I think they did a marvellous job," Joanne McLeod said after the book presentation at St. Anne's Court.
Students Parsa Hekmatpanah and Ewan Robertson told the story of McLeod, a longtime advocate for people living with physical disabilities, receiving the Order of Canada.
"I think the book was so good and interesting, and I think that Ms. McLeod, she was so excited about it," said Hekmatpanah. "And she loves it so much, and I'm happy that I see her again."
After the interviews, the students spent the next few weeks writing and rewriting their stories. Before the holiday break in December, a local printing company offered to put the students' final work in print at a discount.
A photographer and graphic artist donated their time, and the stories that bound the two groups briefly together are now bound together themselves.
The book, Captured Memories, was dedicated "to teens and seniors who have discovered the sweet richness of shared stories and relationships."
What was a narrative writing exercise on the surface became much more for the students, and Marshall said it showed in the final drafts.
"What I witnessed with my students was powerful," she said.
"I realized when they had an authentic audience, when they knew that they were writing for someone other than their teacher, suddenly the writing took on a whole new meaning."
The experience even helped one of her students land a job.
Following the interviews, the retirement home asked Marshall if any students were interested in working at Ste. Anne's, and Brett Cormier jumped at the opportunity.
Cormier worked with Marshall on a cover letter and resumé.
"I had an interview the next day," said a smiling Cormier.
With files from Catherine Harrop