A Message from Executive Director Richard Scheiwe
After years of teaching as an adjunct at various colleges and universities in both Chicago and New York City, I felt there needed to be a change in the trajectory of my career, both for personal and professional reasons. During the summer of 2008, I taught a unique English composition class that was offered to staff members of various hospitals on the Upper East Side and in Harlem. Because of a grant made to City College/CUNY, the department at City College was able to offer free classes to these staff members. The aim of the class was simple: build confidence in the students and their writing, and build the students’ mastery over the written word. The classes were on a volunteer basis.
The stories of my students (all middle aged, none of who had gone to college, and typically with families) were at once distressing and a source of inspiration. They felt as though they had become so disconnected from the written word, be it either in essay-format writing or in a more creative aspect, that they were completely limited as to what they could achieve in life, simply because they could not express themselves in a manner they saw fitting. They could see what they wanted to say in their heads, but they couldn’t translate it onto the page.
But they soon developed a great sense of pride in and completion to what they were writing. This pride that they were building brought me back to when I was in college in Chicago, and I worked at Columbia College’s Youth Summer Arts Camp. At first employing the innovative teaching methods of Kenneth Koch, and then developing those methods into something of my own, I taught poetry to children, aged 5-14. Their distaste for poetry was palpable from the onset. But again, a change took place, and rather quickly. I emerged them in the great poems of the Canon and through loose imitation, they were writing wonderful works of poetry themselves. The atmosphere was bustling, noisy; they shared with one another, socialized, completed one another’s poems. It was non-condescending and fun, an experience with poetry they had not had in the past.
Borough Writing Workshops is not art therapy. By using my years of trial-and-error and research regarding teaching creative writing to people of any age group, the Workshops simply seeks to give its students valuable lessons and experience in the creation of written works through a comfortable, enjoyable atmosphere.
For a few hours a week, we offer a period of relaxed, directed writing in a community of educators, writers, friends, and family.