Revealing the Human and the Writer: The Promise of a Humanizing Writing Pedagogy for Black Students—LEARN Marginal Syllabus

March 31, 2021
By Educator Innovator

“The professor, who identified as a writer, wanted her students to witness the vulnerability involved in storying one’s experience.”

Our April reading for LEARN: Marginal Syllabus looks at a high school creative writing course that is the site of collaboration between a university professor and a local public high school. Latrise Johnson, a professor at the University of Alabama, has reimagined her academic role by teaching creative writing at nearby West High School in order to investigate in- and out-of-school literacy practices of historically marginalized youth. In this article, Johnson and her co-author Hannah Sullivan share the instructional choices Johnson made in her work with youth, as well as the student writing that resulted, in a class that foregrounded the students’ knowledge and lived experiences.

This is the second month’s reading from the Spring 2021 LEARN Marginal Syllabus co-developed with the National Writing Project (NWP) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) with support from Hypothesis. Each month, March through June, we invite educators to collaboratively read and discuss an article published by NCTE that investigates the intersection of literacy and equity. Each reading with related author discussion will go “live” on the first Monday of the month.

This month’s reading and author discussion:

Revealing the Human and the Writer:
The Promise of a Humanizing Writing Pedagogy for Black Students

This month, we invite you to read about the contrast between so-called “best practices,” which can dehumanize and deculturalize Black students, and a more humanizing approach to literacy instruction employed by Latrise Johnson in a semester-long creative writing class. In an effort to center and support student’s cultural identities, Johnson created a space designed to reflect African diasporic participatory literacy traditions, to support students in engaging with mentor texts selected to honor their language, histories, and literacies, and to write in response to assignments like “the 25 things you don’t see when you look at me.” In this article, the authors share and celebrate the student work the class generated while inviting teachers of English to reimagine the way Black students can write themselves into learning spaces in order to challenge racism and assert their humanity. It powerfully points to the generative reading, writing, and literacy learning possible when schools set aside the deficit- focused perspectives through which Black students are so often viewed.

Join the Conversation

We invite you to:

Why Annotate?

Reflecting on her experiences with the Marginal Syllabus, Michelle King of the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project, has written that “to annotate is to observe, remark, and/or note down. [It is] an act of love because of one’s commitment to stay in relationship with the creator and other readers and observers.” This infographic she created is available as a PDF download to support others in thinking through the question of why annotate together.

Social annotation is a form of digital dialogue. Through social annotation texts become discursive contexts. Digital resources, like Marginal Syllabus articles, are marked up to share information, enable collaboration, and produce new knowledge. The Marginal Syllabus leverages social annotation for justice-directed dialogue in literacy education. By facilitating group reading and social annotation, the Marginal Syllabus provides public and beneficial opportunities for educators’ literacy learning as “annotation can function as both a literary device and means of social inquiry for educators writing to advance their equity-oriented professional learning” (see Remi Kalir’s recent article in English Journal).