Words from “The Writers’ Block”

IMG_3177Mary McGlone coordinates the Ward Melville High School writing center in East Setauket, New York. She also teaches English and writing at Suffolk County Community College. 

The Ward Melville High School Writing Center, “The Writers’ Block,” is in its fourth year of evolution, serving a student population of 1,775 in grades 10-12. The writing center grew out of services offered to students in literacy classes, as the literacy teachers sought to reach students in need of support who didn’t qualify for literacy services. The center was originally located in a classroom, staffed by a full-time paraprofessional and two English/literacy teachers one period a day each.

IMG_3173In order to reach a wider range of the student body, the writing center was relocated to a section of the high school library in its third year, 2014. I have coordinated the growth of the writing center since January 2016, as it evolves from its “hidden secret” existence in a classroom to a full-time center based in the school library. We are currently open every period of the school day and after school, staffed by a full-time paraprofessional, a part-time writing teacher, and English teachers who work in the center one period a day for one semester a year; thus, the center is staffed by at least one writing coach per period, sometimes two. This post focuses on the location of our writing center in the school library.

The biggest advantage—and the main reason for relocating the writing center—is that we are centrally located in the building (Everyone knows where the library is!). Students who may not be aware that the writing center exists actually see it in their daily travels. Teachers of subjects other than English (traditionally our biggest supporters come from this department) are grateful that our location is so easy to remember and tell students about. We are physically in the center of the building, close to the cafeteria, so students can find us easily and can arrive early in the period for conferences. Study hall teachers who want to send students to us know where we are, and students can get to us quickly. It is fitting that we are physically in the center of the school, since our goal is to be a “hub” of writing in the school, the center from which writing in various subjects and grade levels occurs.

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How shud we teach students tew write?

my'yah
My’yah tutoring

Editor’s note: Today’s blog comes from My’yah Mitchell, a senior peer tutor at Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy Writing Center in Baltimore, MD. Read on for her fun response to “Should Writers Use They Own English?” by Vershawn Ashanti Young.

Why y’all so closed minded? Who y’all think y’all is telling folks how they can or cannot write? If you are capable of understanding what I am saying while speaking in my own language, why should I be forced to write in “Standard English”? For those who don’t know, “Standard English” is the only form of the English language widely accepted as the “correct” form. When I refer to speaking, I’m talking about writing how I speak. For example, I don’t always pronounce erry letter in a word, or I might pronounce a letter differently. If you can understand what it is I’m sayin’ and writtin’, why do I need to write in yo language? As tutors, we should teach students to perfect their own language because if enough students prove that they can write formally in they own dialect, maybe society will began to accept it.

classroom and writing center
The classroom–and writing center!–that My’yah tutors in.

My intention is to explain why forcing students to write in society’s version of “correct English” rather than their own is doing more harm than benefit. I believe that helping students perfect their own dialect would benefit more than forcing them to learn and write what you think is correct. To help support my claim, I reference “Should writer’s use they own English?” by Vershawn Ashanti Young.

When people are forced to learn to read or write a certain way and basically told that their way of speaking is incorrect, they began to feel ignorant: “One set of rules that people be applyin to everbody’s dialects leads to perceptions that writers need ‘remedial training’ or that speaker’s dialects are dumb” (Young 112). This is exactly why y’all shouldn’t be forcing your dialects on others because you make ‘em feel dumb. This could lead to a number of things; people could give up on writing, or people would be forced to write in a way which they are not comfortable in, causing them to fail. All of which could be prevented by helping them perfect they own dialect.

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