By Ann Cocks, Writing Program Manager
“I’m not just a storyteller. Now I’m a storywriter.” That’s what Teofilus Abed, affectionately known as Pélé, said, in describing the impact of a 7-day workshop on storytelling and writing held at the University of Namibia in July and October.
“Stories from the Field: Elevating English Language Communication,” was a State Department grant for the Innovative Teaching of English Language. The State Department, the University of Namibia, and the Schuler Scholar program partnered to provide training to a group of new teachers and university lecturers, who delivered the curriculum to over 900 Namibian teachers enrolled in a professional development diploma program. English is the official language of education in Namibia but not the mother tongue of most Namibians who are taught in 11 languages in the early grades. I represented the Schuler program by contributing curriculum and training—much as I do in my work at Schuler.
Like a writing STEP in slow motion, the immersive experience allowed stories to become more than simple narratives. In a supportive writing community, participants worked through the writing process to build a story, revise with layers of reflection and structure, and edit with “fine writing” skills. The workshop culminated in a celebration at the American Cultural Center where participants shared from their stories and described the impact of the workshop. In attendance were the U.S. Ambassador, the embassy’s Public Affairs officer, and family and friends of participants.
Ambassador Thomas Daughton presented certificates of achievement to workshop participants—shake with the right hand, accept the certificate with the left, turn to the front, and smile for the camera—who also snapped pictures next to the life-sized cutout of President Obama.
The celebration honored the participants’ accomplishments and the beginning a new journey. “I’ve been bitten by the writing bug,” said Pélé. “And I’m a writer,” said Moira, empowered by naming herself this way. . It was exciting to share with adults the kind of work that has so positively affected scholars.The entire workshop was a reminder of the power of the writing PROCESS to cultivate authority and confidence in writers. And I have brought home some practical tools for editing and revision. In any writing community, when we trust the process and believe that the answer is YES, we reap rewards in words.