How a Dagenham teacher’s impromptu lesson led to pupils publishing their personal stories
PUBLISHED: 07:00 10 February 2020
One teacher’s impromptu idea for a history lesson has led to young people having their family stories published and shared in exhibitions.
The Write Back scheme aims to boost self-esteem and confidence among young people by training them in storytelling and publishing their work.
It's run by Sam Norwood, who helps pupils identified by their schools as lacking in confidence or in need of a creative outlet.
Sam, a teacher at Robert Clack School of Science in Dagenham, explained Write Back originated after he had to come up with a lesson plan at short notice.
"The next project was going to be about migration," he said. "I took it from there.
"They wrote down and spoke about their experiences."
Those young people went on to interview family members, produce stories for a book collated by English Heritage and curate their own exhibition featuring stories and objects relating to family history.
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Five years on, Sam now teaches part-time alongside running the Write Back scheme - an evolution of that project - for 13 to 16-year-olds.
He works with six schools and runs the 10 week programmes at Future Youth Zone, on the edge of Dagenham's Parsloes Park.
Pupils involved in the Write Back scheme have taken part in a variety of projects, from creating books about their personal experiences of migration or stereotypes to producing exhibitions for Valence House.
"We look to publish the work they do," Sam said, explaining how the young people involved in each project get to decide how they want their stories to be told.
"There are young people who started the project are now volunteers, leading sessions."
Write Back's ethos is that every young person has a story to tell and the capacity to tell it, and that collaborating with others is often the most powerful way to learn.
Sam explained that he received training from the Freedom Writers Foundation, a California-based organisation that supports those teaching at-risk or vulnerable young people, which has helped him to deliver the project.
For more information about Write Back, visit write-back.org