During my morning drives to Howard University in the summer of ‘95, I often reflected on the writing journey I had embarked. I was so excited. I became a Teacher-Consultant for the District of Columbia Writing Project. After so many years of teaching writing, I was changed. I found my voice – my writing voice. I learned to articulate my beliefs about the teaching of writing. My philosophy was shaped and refined with each writing experience. My writing philosophy became grounded in the teachings of many writing gurus such as Nancie Atwell and Donald Graves. After an intense month of doing what I asked of my students, I came to understand some essential truths. Writing does not come easy for many students. For some it is almost an impossible chore. Our students live in such as antiseptic world void of literacy materials. Writers must be readers. We must spend an enormous amount of time developing that idea. We need to fill every classroom with reading materials. There should be magazines, newspapers, and paperbacks everywhere. You see, I realize that we must bring the student’s world into the classroom. Capitalize on their differences. Do not make their differences mean deficits. Educate the student and the student’s parent when necessary. Send reading material home with related writing experiences. Invite the family into the school to read and write together. We also must reach into the world of the students and relate with writing and reading experiences that will extend beyond the now and provide for the world tomorrow. Update the required reading lists and let go of those titles that we have held on for dear life. We are teaching the VH1/BET/hip-hop generation! They require different teaching and learning strategies. We also have to use multimedia and all of the other glittery techniques that we can devise to get them in the room and to hold their attention. Let’s face it. Writing is not just the perfect little essay with an introduction, body and conclusion. We have to think about all of the other types of writing experiences that students can have. Students become efficient writers by doing real writing for real readers to read and sometimes write back. Our classrooms are not perfect places, and the students in them are not perfect students. It takes time to teach, write and share. Every child does not learn at the same rate or in the same manner. Writing is a science and needs to be treated like science classes with a given lab period. Finally, all teachers must realize that they are teachers of writing it is our charge to awaken the writing spirit in each of our students and be encouraged that we will transform some – many students into scholars and lovers of writing. Teachers can’t touch the future, if we don’t fix what’s wrong today!
Yeah, Azalie Hightower Alpha Chapter
Learning to Write“Curtsy” Barbara D. Parks-Lee Alpha Chapter
My third grade teacher was a tall,honey-colored woman who was always elegantly attired in a suit or dress and high-heeled shoes. Her hair and makeup were perfect, and her penmanship was like that which adorned the penmanship placards around the classroom’s walls. By third grade, I was tired of printing and wanted to learn how to write“curtsy” and how to use an ink pen, like the one she dipped into a jar that sat on her desk. She was also the teacher who noticed that I was a left-handed student whose hooked hand smudged over every paper. She said, “If you are going to be a true lefty, let me show you how to turn your paper so it does not get all messed up.” Before she showed me how to place my paper correctly, I had always turned my paper slightly to the left, as had all of my classmates. She explained that was the proper way only for right-handed writers and that we lefties had to use a different position, turning our paper slightly to the right, if our work was to be clean and neat. What a difference her slight adjustment made! It kept me from always trying to keep my sweaty hand raised and hooked as I wrote. Her voice was low and her manner gentle. I loved her and wanted to learnhow to write like she did, and one day, I asked her what I had to do to learn how to write “curtsy” as beautifully as she did. Her eyebrows crinkled into a smile. Very quietly, she said, “If you are willing to make each letter five hundred times and practice every day, in a few months, your handwriting will become beautiful. By the way, this writing is not called‘curtsy.’ Tomorrow, I want you to tell me what its real name is. You might want to use the dictionary and look up words beginning with curs - to find the correct pronunciation.” That night, I was happy to find “cursive”as the real name for the writing I wanted to be able to use. The next day, I showed my teacher my first five hundred letters. I had made the lowercase “a” over and over until I had made 500. She was delighted I really had followed her advice and proceeded to circle the ones she thought met her standards. She kept saying, “Wonderful! This one is nearly perfect. Make me some more just like this one.” Just to see her smile and hear her exclaim,“Wonderful!” was enough to keep me practicing. By the end of the first advisory, however,my writing did not look as pretty as hers did, and I felt discouraged that I was not making any faster progress. It was then she told me it had taken her many years for her writing to be as itwas, and, if I kept practicing, my writing would not look like, but be more beautiful than, hers. She said she had not begun to write cursive letters until she was in the fourth grade and that I had a head start to having beautiful handwriting. Her encouragement rang in my ears as I worked diligently all through school to have writing more beautiful than hers. Id id not even mind having to start a paper over when the dip pen’s ink splotched the paper on which I wrote. Days of the dip pen ended in fifth grade when I received my first fountain pen, a dark green Esterbrook, for my birthday. To this day, there is a special joy when I write with my favorite fountain pen on good quality paper. I eventually took calligraphy classes as an adult to learn to make my handwriting as beautiful as possible. Now, whenever I put pen to paper, I execute a mental “curtsy” to Mrs. Charlotte Barry Bowie, the teacher who dared to inspire and challenge me to have beautiful cursive penmanship.
A Caretaker’s Reward By Pat Ford Neal Nu Zeta Chapter
It was next to the last day of July, on a Sunday afternoon that I had invited my ninety-five year old mom to attend a Sunday matinee show at the Metro Stage Theatre. That morning, I had taken my mom to church, assisted her in changing from church clothes to a casual outfit, and fixed breakfast. I told my mom that we should attend the matinee show of Anne and Emmett as an outing for the afternoon. We had gone to three plays last year at Metro Stage and enjoyed them. It was a small theatre and never crowded. When we arrived I found out it was the last show and they had a full house. Oh no, I thought to myself. Why didn’t I call ahead and check on tickets like I usually did? I sure didn’t want to travel from Virginia back to DC after rushing to get there. The theatre manager went to see if there were any available seats. I was in luck when she came back and said there were two seats available, but they were on the top row and not accessible by a walker, which my mom was using. I told her my mom’s rolater walker had a seat that she could sit on and I could go take the seat in the top row. The manager said they could place my mom in front of the stage and I could take the top row seat. I was so thankful that we could get in to see the play after all. The play Anne & Emmett was written by Janet Langhart Cohen as an imaginary conversation between Anne Frank & Emmett Till. It portrayed how two young teens got caught up as victims of institutionalized terrorism. The imaginary conversation highlighted what happened during that time in history in the state of Mississippi in 1955, and during the reign of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. It was written in the program of how the role of race, religion and ethnicity influenced us in the past, and how the evil of genocide continues to rule the world today. For the next hour and a half, I sat on the edge of my seat and at times nearly in tears, as Anne and Emmett took us through their life stories of horror. You could hear a pin drop as they went back and forth relaying the details of what had happened to them. It was the memories of their stories that had to be read or told over and over through the course of time that would keep them alive to others. I think everyone was surprised at the end of the performance when the special guests in the audience were introduced. I was pleasantly surprised when the stage manager introduced the African American poet Sonia Sachez, who rose to fame during the 1970’s. Then, I couldn’t believe it when she introduced President Lyndon Johnson’s daughter, Lynda Johnson Robb, who stood and waved to everyone. I knew she was living in Virginia somewhere. The last surprise of the afternoon was when the playwright Janet Langhart Cohen was introduced and called to the stage. Janet Cohen called her husband to the stage and introduced him as her producer and thanked him for financing the play. My real joy came in getting the opportunity to have a conversation with each of the special guests introduced. First I made my way over to Lynda Johnson Robb for an autograph as she was leaving her seat. She asked if I would wait until we got into the lobby so as not to hold up others trying to exit. Everyone was moving quietly and slowly down the stairs toward the exit. One lady struck up a conversation with me about the gentrification in DC. Mrs. Robb joined in and asked me where I grew up in DC. I thanked her for her father’s work and courage. I told her I had visited her father’s ranch in Texas during the 70’s. Then I asked her how she felt about the play on her father that was going to open in DC in 2018? She said she really had mixed feelings about seeing the play about her father. In the lobby, she signed my program, as I took a couple of photos and actually photobombed myself into one of the photographs. I saw my mom in the lobby sitting down and I told her I would be right back, and I went to find Sonya Sanchez. As I headed toward the glass doors where I saw Sonya Sanchez standing outside giving autographs, there in the corner was Mr. Cohen, the playwright’s husband. So I stopped to get his autograph and then out the door I went to meet Sonya Sanchez. As she signed my program to Sister Pat, I got to take her photograph, and she said she really enjoyed the play. I headed back inside and got Ms. Cohen to autograph my program, I was able to hold a short conversation with her. As I relayed that I had brought my ninety-five year old mom with me to see the play, she said she wanted to meet her. We walked over to my mom and she sat down and held a short conversation with us. She asked my mom where she grew up and then where I had gone to school. She then wanted to know what I thought were the main problems in schools today. Next, she took photos with the cast members. I was able to get photographs of the whole cast as I was right there in front of them as the stage manager took their photographs. As my mom and I left the parking lot, I was elated and overjoyed to have had such an outstanding afternoon of once in a lifetime of encounters. I will treasure my autographed program and photographs for years. What a joyous afternoon!