Bringing Students to Life With Memoir Writing By Greg Graham

Bringing Students to Life With Memoir Writing

Premium article access courtesy of TeacherMagazine.org.

Eminent scholar Walter Ong said writing "is utterly invaluable and indeed essential for realization of fuller, interior, human potentials. … Writing heightens consciousness as nothing else does." As a writing teacher, this axiom inspires and challenges me. What an incredible opportunity I have to facilitate a life-altering experience for my students, especially for those whose personal and academic growth has been somehow stunted.

This opportunity is powerfully illustrated in the 2009 movie "Precious." Based on the novel Push by Sapphire, the movie tells the story of an illiterate, overweight black teenage girl named Precious whose life is pure misery. Brutalized and sexually abused by her mother and father, Precious is invisible to the rest of the world. After a second pregnancy, she is taken out of the regular public school and sent to an alternative school, the last stop en route to oblivion. As it turns out, that dilapidated alternative classroom offers the only sliver of hope in the story, as the idealistic writing teacher struggles to bring a ragtag group of society's castoffs into literacy. For each student, that classroom is a last chance to make it in life. And miracles happen there. Writing brings those women back from the dead. In a safe place, they literally write themselves into existence.

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