Interviewing an Older Adult

Context

The Teacher’s Voice

After initially asking my students to conduct an in-person interview of an elder from the community, I realized I needed to make some adjustments to ensure that every student was successful. I decided to expand the project to include “older adults from the community” as it was difficult to connect an elder with all 28 of my students.

Several students also asked me if they could interview their grandparents or great-grandparents (often overseas) via a telephone call or video chat, and I instantly realized that I could never say no. We need to meet our students where they are, especially in ways they are enthusiastic for. If they were in a space or place in their lives where they are seeking to build stronger connections with elders in their own families, I wanted to encourage that. 

The First Peoples Principles of Learning were intuitively embedded in this lesson. For example:

  • Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational (focused on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships, and a sense of place).
  • Learning involves generational roles and responsibilities.
  • Learning is embedded in memory, history, and story.

Student feedback on this assignment was very positive, and they noted that the interviews were very special and valuable to them. There was a strong sense of personal awareness, and their post-interview reflections proved to be an invaluable and integral part of the process.

Note: Interview questions work best when collaboratively created by students, alongside teacher guidance. An additional source of interview questions:

https://legacyproject.org/guides/lifeintquestions.pdf

Illustration

Student Reflection

When this project was first introduced, I did not immediately have someone in mind to interview. I felt insecure about not having any blood relatives here in Canada. I use the word blood relative because in creating this video, my understanding of the word family was more so crystallized.

For eleven years, my family lived in the house next door to Sandra. Growing up, my interactions with Sandra and her late husband, James, felt familiar and an ordinary part of everyday life. Walking home from school, James would be mowing both our front lawns and Sandra would be out front calling out for their cat. She would always be so kind and inquisitive about where I was in life and how I was doing in school.

When I asked to interview her for this project, she was more than eager in inviting me to her home and indulging me in her life’s journey. Interviewing Sandra turned into this amazing conversation where I learned so much about someone experiencing a completely different stage of her life, as well as someone who had grown up in a time unrecognizable to me, both socially and culturally. And yet, as Sandra told me about her thoughts from when she was a youth, I recognized similar thoughts in myself. I began to understand that there can exist common worries between people of different generations.

Sandra expresses in the video, that she is still unaware of her purpose in life; a feeling that I myself am familiar with. In interviewing Sandra and finding understanding and compassion within myself, I recognized the values of social responsibility and diverse relationships. I distinctly remember one afternoon arriving home from school, I was alarmed at the sound of my mom crying. I walked to the door to find Sandra crying in her arms. I remember always feeling so angry about James’ passing; how such a terrible thing could happen to two beautiful people. Hearing Sandra express her outlook on the intensity of losing a loved one, allowed me to appreciate a different perspective of life. 

One of the questions that I asked was what advice Sandra would give her young self. I resonated greatly with her response, that she would reassure herself that she is stronger and better than she feels. I felt this echo within me, as if Sandra’s growth and experience was a familiarity in my own struggles with identity. I realized from this project, that all those years of casual interaction and everyday conversation with Sandra was what built this familial comfort that I feel today. I feel a sense of warmth when I think about how people of different generations and different cultures can discover a sense of family and home from each other. 

There are a number of core competencies that I feel like I grew within, as a result of this assignment. For example, personal awareness and responsibility, as well as the impact of social responsibility (building relationships and valuing diversity). Another competency I found familiarity with through this project is building and sustaining relationships with diverse people, including people from different generations.

Activity Video

Profile Analysis

Personal Awareness and Responsibility

PROFILE FIVE
I recognize my value and advocate for my rights. I take responsibility for my choices, my actions, and my achievements.

I have valuable ideas to share. I am willing to explore controversial issues, and I can imagine and work toward change in myself and in the world.  I can set priorities; implement, monitor, and adjust a plan; and assess the results. I take responsibility for my learning, seeking help as I need it. I use strategies for working toward a healthy and balanced lifestyle, for dealing with emotional challenges, and for finding peace in stressful times. I know how to find the social support I need.

Personal Awareness and Responsibility

PROFILE SIX
I can identify my strengths and limits, find internal motivation, and act on opportunities for self-growth. I take responsibility for making ethical decisions.

I am aware of my personal journey and reflect on my experiences as a way of enhancing my well-being and dealing with challenges. I can advocate for myself in stressful situations. I can take the initiative to inform myself about controversial issues and take ethical positions. I take ownership of my goals, learning, and behaviour.  I act on what is best, over time, in terms of my goals and aspirations. I recognize the implications of my choices and consult with others who may be affected by my  decisions.. I can identify my potential as a leader in the communities I belong to. I sustain a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

Social Awareness and Responsibility

PROFILE FIVE
I can advocate and take action for my communities and the natural world. I expect to make a difference.

I am aware of how others may feel and take steps to help them feel included. I maintain relationships with people from different generations. I work to make positive change in the communities I belong to and the natural environment. I can clarify problems or issues, generate multiple strategies, weigh consequences, compromise to meet the needs of others, and evaluate actions. I value differences; I appreciate that each person has unique gifts. I use respectful and inclusive language and behaviour, including in social media. I can advocate for others.

Social Awareness and Responsibility

PROFILE SIX
I can initiate positive, sustainable change for others and the environment

I build and sustain positive relationships with diverse people, including people from different generations.  I show empathy for others and adjust my behaviour to accommodate their needs. I advocate and take thoughtful actions to influence positive, sustainable change in my community and in the natural world. I can analyze complex social or environmental issues from multiple perspectives and understand how I am situated in types of privilege. I act to support diversity and defend human rights and can identify how diversity is beneficial for the communities I belong to.

Critical and Reflective Thinking

PROFILE FIVE
I can evaluate and use well-chosen evidence to develop interpretations; identify alternatives, perspectives, and implications; and make judgments. I can examine and adjust my thinking.

I can ask questions and offer judgments, conclusions, and interpretations supported by evidence I or others have gathered. I am flexible and open-minded; I can explain more than one perspective and consider implications. I can gather, select, evaluate, and synthesize information. I consider alternative approaches and make strategic choices. I take risks and recognize that I may not be immediately successful. I examine my thinking, seek feedback, reassess my work, and adjust.  I represent my learning and my goals and connect these to my previous experiences. I accept constructive feedback and use it to move forward.