POSTED ON BEHALF OF SARAH JACKSON
The resource I’d like to recommend is the Pen/Faulkner Writers in Schools project. This is an organization that provides books written by local authors to classrooms, as well as places local authors in schools for a book talk with the students. It is an organization that has been used by the English Department at Ballou Senior High School for years:
This year, I am taking advantage of this opportunity for the first time.
I think the best educational setting for this program is one that houses potential burgeoning authors. This can mean people of any age or background. The program requires the participants to read and dissect a work of literature in advance, in order to be prepared for the author’s visit that culminates the experience. Therefore, there would need to be some sort of framework for formal teaching and collaborating.
This year, I am using this resource to have my students study the genre of Memoir. I have selected two texts, one for my 9th graders and one for the 10th grade, that I hope will reach my students by resonating with their own experiences; as well as expose them to the world beyond what they know here in D.C. My hope is that students will learn that literature is liberation. I want them to realize that literature is everywhere and that it can be for anyone. I think too many of them maintain the bias that reading and writing are irrelevant for their lives. I want them to see that personal and social issues can be unearthed and exposed through powerful literature. I want them to meet the person behind the page and see there is no mystery there, there is no magical gift. There is an individual with an idea and determination to pen it. It could indeed be them one day.
I believe this resource supports several Peace Education pillars, particularly Reframing History, and Skill Building. Through the Pen/Faulkner Writers in Schools project, my students will be reading the personal stories of people who have lived through traumatic experiences and periods of history. Yet, there will be more to these stories than destruction and despair. There is a protagonist who survived and grew, someone who chooses to give back by visiting young people in schools. This is a different ending to the story of violence and chaos so often told by history. Furthermore, by working closely with a text and then the author of that text, students witness first-hand that the skills they learn in the classroom will not stay there if they know how to apply them. The fact that the authors are local powerfully illustrates to the students that there is a life other than the one they know, and this life of success is certainly within reach.
This is awesome and will make a real impact in your classroom! One question I have for you is how can you allow students to continue their own growth outside of the classroom? Have you considered having the youth slam poetry team in DC lead an after school program focused on poetry and writing?
Fantastic. This is an absolutely wonderful resource and thank you very much for sharing. I like the plan you have developed on how to use this, and really hope it reaches the students. One question I have for you is what happens when or if you discover a student with real enthusiasm and talent? Does your school have follow-up programs in Grades 11 and 12?
This is a great resource, and a powerful video. You articulated very well what effects this kind of program can have on students, who often never have the chance to connect an author with a real person and a real life. Also, the potential for nurturing creativity in the classroom and beyond it, after graduation, is inspiring and just as important as community building or reframing history.
My question is, does this program leave room for teachers to introduce literature from authors outside the immediate community? Would familiar local stories always be favored over others that are specific to foreign places? I think an equally valid use for literature is to escape, learn about the other, and perhaps find a universal truth in an unexpected story.