Rebecca Hallman’s “Hero’s Welcome”

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This article is from guest writer, Rebecca Hallman. She is a recent graduate of the Citizen Scholars program, where she majored in English with a focus on education, and a minor in teaching English as a second lanaguge. Next year, she will enter her student teaching program where she will finalize her training to be a teacher. She loves reading, knitting, yoga, cooking, and all things Disney. Here is a look into what she decided to do for her Citizen’s Project.

“Now that I look back at my years at Michigan State University, I can remember signing up for the Citizen Scholars program. It was my first day of orientation and I was as frightened as everyone else, but when the advisor spoke of Citizen Scholars, I felt a sense of calm. For me, it was a way to get everything I wanted out of college, opportunity, networking, community with my peers, and academic enrichment. I am extremely thankful that I signed on to the program as it has delivered on all of these promises and more. This is best reflected in my study abroad and what I have done after. 

I decided to use my scholarship from Citizen Scholars to fund a study abroad trip to Canada with the MSU Writing Center. The trip was not only focused on writing centers and Canadian academia but also on what literacy means. As a person with a background in education, my immediate answer was the ability to read and write, but the definition of literacy is much more expansive than that. For me, it is about the knowledge that you have about the world around you, or to put it another way what someone may be literate in, I have a sense of literacy for novels and educational documents, but also in yoga and Disney movies. It is the idea of what you understand. I was able to see through a variety of community-engaged writing centers, such as Story Planet, how this can be leveraged to involve students creatively. As a future teacher, this has sparked my interest in how we can engage students in what they already know to expand their worldview. 

This has led me to my summer project where I will be teaching with the Red Cedar Writing Camp to engage students in the idea of heroes through Disney movies. This camp will be for third through fifth graders and we will engage campers in what it means to be a hero in our media, what is left in and out, and how we can adapt classic ways of storytelling, such as the hero’s journey, to tell the stories that we desire to tell. This will be done by focusing on three films: Moana, Wreck it Ralph, and Encanto. By the end, campers will complete their own stories of the heroes that they create. 

Through the Citizen Scholars program, I feel well-equipped to go into my student teaching year with a developed pedagogy of leveraging students’ literacy to be able to engage them in new forms of storytelling. Programs, such as the one I am doing with the Red Cedar Writing Camp, empowers students to question what narratives are pushed through the hero’s journey, and how we can push back on these stories and create our own. Similar to how Citizen Scholars has allowed me to forge new paths, this will allow young storytellers to adapt to the media they want to see. If this is what they can create now, imagine what they will do in the future.