Wendy Crocker


Old Colony Mennonites; literacy; schooling; assessment; Ontario; Manitoba Colony, Chihuahua, Mexico


This paper narrates the schooling experiences of the Old Colony Mennonites (OCM) across two contexts based on my first-hand observations as a principal in a rural, southwestern Ontario school and on a research trip to the Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua, area of Mexico. The OCM children described in this paper attend public school in southwestern Ontario and travel regularly to Mexico where many of the families hold property or visit family. Thus, during one calendar year, these OCM children often attend schools in two countries with important differences in the use of language(s) and literacy practices, expectations in the classroom, and even the meaning of playing outside. This reality, which requires OCM students to adapt to the expectations of two very different learning cultures, is an important facet in the life of these children, whose experiences of school and education are vastly different. Using ethnographic methods and case study tools including photos, I describe the educational settings of Ontario and Chihuahua where OCM students are schooled. Further, I illustrate how the diaspora from Russia to Manitoba, Canada, the subsequent migration to Mexico, and then the return of the OCM to Canada (this time Ontario) was partially predicated on the need to find places where their beliefs about education could be enacted, a search that continues to the present.


Thank you to the OCM children and their families in southwestern Ontario, from whom I continue to learn so much. I would also like to acknowledge the members of the Mennonite Community Services in Aylmer, Ontario, and the service providers who come together as the members of the Low German Networking Committee for their tireless efforts to build bridges of understanding and acceptance.



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