The University of Houston features an in-depth interview with Robin Reagler, the Executive Director of Writers in the Schools (WITS) this month. Here is an excerpt from the profile:
The inherent value of creative work is real, but it is often difficult to force the issue of charging money for creative work. I often talk about sustainability. It’s not that you can’t give of yourself; generosity is a beautiful thing. But if you aren’t getting paid for your efforts, if your teachers are all volunteers, it’s hard to continue to do it, to justify doing it, over the long haul.
One of the things that the writers find most rewarding is the transformation you see in the children. Not because they’ve learned a skill called writing, but because they’ve realized that through the writing, they are unique, they have a particular vision, and that their words matter. This doesn’t happen in math class, doesn’t happen in a class where everyone is asked to give the same answer. It only happens in a creative situation in which people are respecting one another.
Many of the writers say that they are inspired by teaching. Many like the idea of returning to childhood through this imaginative process. To be let in by these children, talking with them and asking them questions, and hearing the things that they say—it is a wonderful kind of conversation. WITS writers witness in young student the pleasure of creating without the cognitive framework.
The idea that an object is not just black, but black as coal is familiar to many of us. But children don’t have that structure yet so when they say something is black, they might compare it to a hundred things that we might not have imagined. In the WITS classroom, inexperience forces children into a kind of creative genius.
A version of the interview will appear in Arts + Culture Magazine in January.