19 Urban Questions: Teaching in the City

By Shirley R. Steinberg; Joe L. Kincheloe | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

How Can Urban Students
Become Writers?

Winthrop Holder

I know it's been forever and a day since I e-mailed you, but
that's mainly because I've been wrapped up in these stupid
classes. Let me say class (English). (sic)

I received the above e-mail from one of my former students. Her name is Kenesha Vassell. I was then at the midpoint of this chapter. She is a freshman/sophomore in Florida. I suspected her note was a call for help. The following night I received another e-mail. It read:

I'm…send(ing) you two of the essays that I had to turn in, one which was due today. I know they might sound a little bit on the stupid side, but that's only because I really don't like doing her essays. She puts too much emphasis on little things. Not to mention how uninteresting the…topics are…. Her intentions may be to teach us to write, but it is difficult to write about things that are retarded. (LOL). Well, here they are….

I was more than a bit shocked. Kenesha Vassell had been a prolific writer both in my sophomore global history class and in her junior year, in which she graduated. Moreover, two years after graduation she had been instrumental in encouraging my “current” students. They had started a journal like the one Kenesha had edited while in high school. Acting as a coach of sorts, two years after graduation, she contributed an article to the new publication. Her commentary was well received by students two or three years her junior. Her crisp and provocative writing style spawned a mini-debate within the group.

I began asking myself, What had gone wrong? If this student was really an effective writer in high school, why was she having such difficulty with compositions in college? If one of my more stellar students was having so much difficulty with college writing, how credible was I in writing about how to teach writing to urban students?

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