One of the most beautiful self-portraits hanging in the front hallway at the Seattle World School (in the former Meany Middle School) is that of a new student from Saudi Arabia.
When art teacher Lori Leberer asked students to create black-and-white images of themselves, she asked that they draw the shape of the head, then use a variety of line weights and types to make a storytelling self-portrait.
Hodan Mubarak, 17, chose to reveal a little but not a lot of herself. “I used Arabic inscriptions and made a poem about friends. This portrait shows one side of me; the other side is a mystery,” she explained.
A bit more extroverted, 14-year-old Juan Carlos Hernandez, from El Salvador, shows images of what he likes here in his new hometown: the Space Needle, kites flying at Gas Works Park, soccer, flowers, trees and even a pen drawing a picture.
“I like Seattle,” he said, “and I wanted to show that.”
A talented artist, Hernandez arrived here in May and is working on his English proficiency.
Dulamsuren Narantsetseg, a cheerful 17-year old from Ulan Bator in Mongolia, portrayed herself in sunglasses with butterflies on the lenses.
“This was hard. No one [has] ever asked me to look at my inner thoughts before,” she said.
Looking somewhat like a new-age hippy, her portrait uses one pattern of lines for her hair, another for her jacket and images of books, pens and pencils.
Other students from Burma,
By Diane Steen
Iran, Brazil, Somalia, Vietnam, and Senegal all created alternate images of themselves, with varying patterns of lines, line weights and a great deal of imagination. While their artwork shows tremendous diversity, all are in the same boat when it comes to learning a new language.
After completing their portraits, students were graded on how well they met the drawing requirements, as well as on the paragraph they had to write that explained their thought processes.
Because learning English is the main focus of the school, all classes — art, P. E., math, science, literacy and history — promote the use of their new language. Most struggled more with writing the paragraph than with drawing the picture because several, including Hernandez, are completely new to English. Others, like Mubarak, learned basics in their home countries.
All seem to enjoy learning each other’s languages, as well. Somali students ask, “Como estas?” while many Spanishspeaking students can ask the same question in Chinese and a few Arab speakers can give a greeting in French or Vietnamese.
This Seattle public school serves newly arrived secondary students whose first language isn’t English. A few are here temporarily while their parents are on a work project or are working toward an advanced degree. Others are immigrants
Narantsetseg, a cheerful 17-year old from Ulan Bator in Mongolia, portrayed herself in sunglasses with butterflies on the lenses. ‘This was hard. No one [has] ever asked me to look at my inner thoughts before,’ she said.
or refugees from war-torn countries.
In the past, students stayed at the school (formerly the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center/SBOC) until they achieved a specified level of proficiency before transitioning to their neighborhood high school.
The opportunity now exists for students to stay on to receive targeted academic and linguistic support to earn a high school diploma. Students also still have the option to exit after two or three semesters to attend their local high school.
In addition, the school offers after-school and Saturdaymorning tutoring.
Anyone interested in volunteering to help students with homework during these sessions is welcome to contact email@example.com.Visit the school’s web-site (www.seattleschools.org/schools/secboc)to learn more.
DIANE STEEN is a volunteer at the Seattle World School. To comment on this column, write to CityLivingEditor@nwlink.com.