But sometimes the students are already there—that’s certainly true of JH, one of my students at the prison where I teach. Here’s her literacy narrative, written a few weeks ago in class as a quick draft:
Before I was sentenced to 43 months in this federal prison camp, I spent 10 months researching prison life and finding out what, if any, opportunities I’d have available. I knew that I wanted to make the very best out of this terrible situation. For years, I’ve spent many hours alone writing about my life and my experiences and the thoughts and feelings I had as results. I’ve covered page after page trying to break down my perception of life and love and dreams and fears and all of the not-so-interesting points in between. I knew in my heart that somehow, once I got to where I was going, to do whatever amount of time I had to do, I would find an inspiration or a motivation of some shape or form that would spark up my writing again.
You see, when I put my life into words, it seems a bit more interesting, to me at least. These memories I’ve made and the impressions I’ve left…The stories I’ve heard and the trials I’ve overcome—all of what makes my life mine…I like the way words fall together on paper and make it all seem worthwhile—more so than if it all just sat in the back of my mind or heavy on my heart.
The day I was informed of the creative writing classes that were being offered from Texas A&M here at FPC Bryan, a bell rang in my head letting me know that this class was for me! I signed up for the very first creative writing class and waited patiently for the other inmates to do the same so we could get it started. When the class finally began, there were 12 or 15 of us participating. All of us different from one another. Different ages, shapes, and sizes. Different colors, different personalities. Each of us had out own stories to tell. True or not, they were all entertaining. We laughed, we cried, we even had what we claimed as “Angry Fridays.” But best of all, what we all had in common and got the chance to express was that we were creative and we had words to share.
Now I’m in Dr. White’s second class, non-fiction life stories. The only difference in this one is that all of our writing is based on facts—the true blue history of you! Not always easy. However the passion is of another level. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to get out of the housing unit I’m assigned to and spend 2 hours a night expressing myself. I love to write, and I love Dr. White’s class.
The National Endowment for the Arts has changed lives by making these classes possible, and is deserving of everyone’s support.