Twice on Friday I accompanied a group of students from St Chad's Sanctuary to Birmingham Museum where we visited the local history galleries. The trip was inspired by some questions about Birmingham's history which I couldn't answer, and I decided rather than resorting to Wikipedia and creating a comprehension sheet we'd head out to the museum instead ... it was the right decision.
Being a primary school teacher by training, no school trip I organise was ever going to happen without a quiz to fill in on the way round! But I don't think they were just humouring me when the students engaged with it and explored the history of this city they now tentatively call home. All in all it was an amazing day: plenty of opportunities for English practice and new vocabulary, a chance to discuss and explore together, a chance to share experiences and learn from one another.
From its earliest days as a country market gradually attracting crafts people and farmers from surrounding areas, through its growth into a manufacturing hub in the industrial revolution, to the world wars and onwards to modernity, the history of Birmingham is one of migration. It is a story of which me in my own way, and my students in theirs are all a part.
At the far end of the gallery, on the wall, is this:
"What's your Birmingham? Tell us what the city means to you."
For me, Birmingham is these people, (and a million or so others). Birmingham is stepping outside my door into a diversity of colour and culture and the riches of humanity. Birmingham is it's history of migration, with all of its beauty and all of its struggles. It is the welcome it has offered to me to be a part of that history, that present and that future.
And for my Students? Well for them, Birmingham is:
"Birmingham is nice for me, there is new life and I have freedom and security"
"Birmingham is beautiful and has many buildings. It is different races"
"I love Birmingham city for the beautiful and wonderful nature and all the wonderful people"
"Birmingham is very big and very beautiful and it's a place of church"
"Birmingham is beautiful because everyone is living and working here"
"Birmingham is a city of lots of different people"