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Reflections in Creative Writing

Spring 2013 - Writing in the African American & Pan African Traditions

· teaching,African American,Writing,Syracuse University

This writing workshop was the most liberating experience. The course was aimed at focusing on creative writing skills in the African-American tradition. Additionally, we were able to draw on the wider diaspora for influence, and as a result my creative background aided in the course development. I was assigned to Mr. Ryan Travis, who utilized an incorporated theatrical methodology in his course. I learnt three key things working with this course.

  1. Creating a safe environment. Through a technique of checking-in with students, Mr. Travis expressed that we recognize each other in the space. This was fundamental to building trust, and connecting with students. There was time set aside for students to consciously enter the space and acknowledge their fellow colleagues, and in the end, the students bonded beyond that which they have experienced before in a short course. I believe that this technique was able to facilitate diversity and reduce potential conflict. It also promoted continuous participation, and motivated a class of 25 students to be comparable with each other and strive for excellence.
  2. Dealing with sensitive information. Students were prompted to tap into their emotions to convey feelings, and it brought the class to tears. The ability to share in the experiences of untold/told stories, and thus connect with audiences as writers and speakers within as well as from the African American tradition, was an essential component of the course. The Black Experience and individual experiences are sensitive matters that should be handled carefully. I learned that both non-verbal and verbal communication play a significant role in dealing with this subject matter. I also learn that sometimes the lesson is where the students take it, and not essentially what was planned for the day.
  3. Accommodating non-blacks in the black experience. The student population for this course is primarily African American, and in ensuring that the entire class shares in the experience, dealing with those who are foreign to this subject matter can be difficult. Thus, presumptions for all students should take into consideration the diversity of the population. Incorporating students of different cultural backgrounds provides the larger sect with an alternative view point, and this is essential to critical reflection. Similarly helping to students to connect with the subject matter required creative skills, and alternative methodologies.

Working with this course, propelled me as a writer to share my work in illustrating points, and ideas, thus bringing new content to the course.