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Freedom Writer

FAMU English Professor Empowers Students to Tell Their Stories BY [Domonique DAVIS]

When the small classroom door swung open in FAMU’s Gore Education Complex, the chatter of more than 20 students silenced as English professor Kendra Bryant, Ph.D., addressed the room with a simple, “Good afternoon, class,” and a smile.

Though small in stature and further in age from many of her colleagues than the students she instructs, Bryant effortlessly commands the respect of her classroom, but that respect isn’t a one-way street. Bryant said she is deliberate in her efforts to ensure each of her students feel respected and empowered in their learning environment. Through small efforts such as learning names and remembering minor details, Bryant said she is able to gain the trust of the students she instructs. “A good teacher will always build relationships first,” Bryant said. “It breaks down some of the hierarchy. If you relate to them, get to know them, learn their names, know where they’re from, it will be easier for them to trust you, and trust that if I am writing on your paper and it’s marked all over, it’s not an attack on your personhood.” A poet and creative writer herself, Bryant said she understands the necessity for students to have a safe space where they feel they can openly express themselves and tell their own stories. She explained that there is a certain level of intimacy that writing requires, so she enjoys breaking down the walls with her students so that they are able to tap

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into that creative space. “Before I even bring all that technical stuff to the classroom, it’s very important that I help students become in touch with themselves. Many of them have not been challenged to just find out who they are. ‘Who are you? Why are you here? Why are you wearing what you’re wearing? What does your name mean? Who named you?’” One of the first assignments Bryant gives at the onset of each semester is for students to ask their parents how they received their names. Upon completing this exercise, Bryant said students are left feeling more self-aware; something that she says is necessary for the writing process. While teaching freshman communication skills in the ENC 1101 and 1102 courses, Bryant is often tasked with re-teaching some of the fundamental writing skills that college students must know throughout their academic career. But she doesn’t just stop there. Bryant ensures her students are able to learn beyond the typical structure of a basic composition course through assignments such as poetry and speech reader’s responses. As an English professor, Bryant said she

Profile for FAMU Communications

Spring 2016 A&M Magazine  

In this issue of A&M Magazine we tell the story of FAMU’s rich tradition of empowerment. Our cover story, “Planting Hope,” chronicles the...

Spring 2016 A&M Magazine  

In this issue of A&M Magazine we tell the story of FAMU’s rich tradition of empowerment. Our cover story, “Planting Hope,” chronicles the...