#Success: Steinbeck, CSUMB Screen Film, Start Conversation

Dec 22nd, 2015 | By | Category: Chapters, Steinbeck
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new image of author Brandon Lambert

Brandon Lambert


—More than 50 students, faculty, administrators, and language learners came together on November 4 for a screening and discussion of I Learn America, a film that follows five immigrant teenagers through their first year at an international high school in New York. The event was a collaboration between the Steinbeck Chapter and the California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) College of Education. It attracted those from a number of Monterey Bay–area institutions and programs, including CSUMB’s American Language and Culture program, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS), the Defense Language Institute (DLI), and Monterey Peninsula College (MPC). In addition to the screening, attendees took part in a social media conversation with #sixwordstories, sharing their personal journeys in just six words.

image of title of I Learn America documentaryThe film depicts the challenges these students face and the unique ways that they negotiate new identities in a new land. “I didn’t want the event to end,” said Rose Graves, a graduate student from MIIS. “I wanted to hear more about each one of them.”

A highlight of the event for many attendees was the discussion that followed the screening. Facilitated by Steinbeck Chapter Board members, the attendees broke out into groups to discuss both personal connections to the movie as well as professional takeaways. “It was great to see so many of the attendees stay and have such great conversations,” said Ondine Gage, assistant professor of Education, Department of Liberal Studies at CSUMB. “I’ve gotten great feedback from many of my students. I have also heard from other faculty members that students have taken the film into the classroom and reflected on it for various assignments.”

Another feature of the event was the sharing of six-word stories, a storytelling activity inspired by Ernest Hemingway. Before and after the screening, attendees were encouraged to tell their personal stories in six words. “I Learn America is about narratives and the power they have when we share them with others,” said Netta Avineri, Steinbeck Chapter coordinator. “We wanted to give everyone a chance to think about their own journeys and reflect on the journeys of others.” Contributions such as “Anywhere home is where I’m headed” and “At 24 his life finally began” covered the poster boards hanging around the auditorium. In an effort to widen the reach of the conversation, some shared to social media with the hashtag #sixwordstory.

“Anywhere home is where I’m headed.”

“At 24 his life finally began.”


After this event, the chapter hosted a Conference ShareOut and Potluck on December 3. This is the third year the chapter has hosted a ShareOut after the fall conference season, and it is the second time on the MIIS campus. Participants shared their own conference presentations as well as insights gained from other workshops and sessions.

If you have questions about the Steinbeck Chapter and/or would like to get involved, please contact Chapter Coordinator Netta Avineri at steinbeckchapter@gmail.com. Join the conversation!

Brandon Lambert is a graduate and adjunct faculty member of the MA TESOL (IESL) program at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.


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