Hearing Voices

I have been privileged to spend the last 2 days at the African American Adolescent Male Summer Writing Institute conducted by Dr. Alfred Tatum. When we talk about creating “wonder” in our classrooms, it is happening here! I have watched these young men write and revise and share their writing. Their pieces have such voice! Some characters they have shared have made me laugh, some have made me think, some have even made me cry.

Dr. Tatum’s approach in getting these young men to write is vastly different from what we see in so many English classes. There are no rubrics, no grades, he introduces concepts about writing in short snippets and then challenges the young men to consider these concepts in their own writing. Yesterday’s idea was about research and knowing how to incorporate it into your writing. While he had a graphic organizer to help them gather some research, they were free to go in any direction the ideas took them. Two of the young men shared their pieces today based on their research. The pieces did not read like research papers. They were the starts of short stories based on ideas generated and supported by the research they had started. One piece was humorous. One piece was more pensive. But both reflected such voice, such heart.

As I have listened to the pieces these young men have shared, I wonder whether the writing they are doing here will be valued and appreciated in the English classrooms they will go back to in just a couple of months. My experience tells me some will, some won’t. I hope that, regardless of the classroom they enter this fall, that they will not lose the sense of wonder, of thinking, they have gained here in their time with Dr. Tatum. I hope their voices will be heard for they are voices deserving of a listen.

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3 thoughts on “Hearing Voices

  1. Dr. Tatum gets it right, and you got it right by noticing and spreading the word about his work.

    Writing rubrics frequently miss the good stuff. Albert Einstein could have been talking about writing instruction when he said, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

    When our goal is to nurture authentic writers and writing, we approach the task very differently than when our goal is simply to generate data about writing instruction. Which goal led us to become English teachers?

    Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

    Thanks, Teresa. Excellent post.

    • Thanks, Gary! I encourage everyone to read some of the posts from the young men. They appear as comments each day. They have some powerful writing going on. And if you listen in the room, you hear Dr. Tatum being real with them about what works in their writing and what doesn’t work. They are being challenged and are rising to the challenge!

  2. No rubrics, no grades, good teaching, brilliant results. I’m so glad you were there and that you shared this with us here. I followed the link and read a few of the pieces there – so inspiring, Teresa.

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