Making the Wright Connection

An Online Community for the Study of Richard Wright

Teacher Matt Presser Helps Students Make (Wright) Connections

Posted on March 1, 2011 | No Comments

Matt Presser, Summer 2010 Wright Connection Institute participant, on how he and his students make connections:

Matt PresserIn Black Boy, Richard Wright describes how an early experience with a book by H.L. Mencken makes him “look of the world different.” Wright’s experience is what I have in mind when I present a work of literature to my students. But how does one choose just one piece from the canon when my time with students lasts just 180 short days?

To broaden my students’ vision of literature, I invited them to a read-in I organized at a local branch of the library recently. Students connected with community members, who ranged in age from 9 to 74, and selected from a variety of important historical works to read aloud. At the table of readings, Richard Wright sat next to Phyllis Wheatley, who sat next to W.E.B. DuBois and Jay-Z. Connecting students to these writers — as well as to the threads of their history and the wider community — propelled forward my effort to involve students in making valuable connections like those I made this summer.

Connection-making also happens through an exciting collaboration with Making the Wright Connection faculty member Howard Ramsby and his students at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. My students eagerly look forward to the days when they see a thick manila envelope on my desk at the front of my classroom, knowing that inside are individually addressed letters from their college pen pals. Our partnership has offered my students the tremendous opportunity to communicate with college student mentors and to discuss some high-interest and historically important material. Both of these experiences are helping students find value in the written word and in the end, perhaps in some small way, “look of the world different.”

Matt and his students

A student reads aloud

Who Is Matt?
Matt Presser teaches middle and high school English in New Haven, Connecticut. He recently earned his master’s degree in Urban Education Studies from Yale University. Prior to moving to New Haven, Matt taught at a Boston middle school and an elementary school near Chicago. Matt holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has written for major daily newspapers in Texas, Illinois, and Florida. He enjoys reading, sports, and education policy.


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