Professor Belli | Fall 2022 | City Tech

What is an Education Narrative Genre?

This week, we have read (and heard) three examples from the genre of the “education narrative”: the Olivarez, Lorde, and Livingston pieces.  Your first essay assignment (Unit 1) in this class will be to write in this genre yourself.  So in this Class Discussion, we’ll have a conversation about what the features of this genre are. Please discuss some of the following in a comment of at least 250 words:

  • What, from what you’ve seen so far, are the “ingredients” (also known as “conventions”) of the education narrative genre? Be specific, bringing in excerpts + examples from the three texts.
  • What do you think might be a place to get started with your own education narrative?
  • What are your questions or concerns about writing an education narrative of your own?
  • If you like, you can also feel free to share an educational experience you had and ask for feedback from your colleagues (and me) to see if we think that might be a solid place to begin writing.

*Due: Friday, 9/9 by noon

*Don’t forget to read through your classmates’ comments & engage where you see fit.


  1. Indira

    When reading these three examples of narration, they undoubtedly took me to the point of emotion, they made me feel what they felt, they took me to their world and I identified with them.

    I was amazed at their experiences, their culture and how they have been able to overcome certain obstacles. So, analyzing and comparing the three writings tells me loudly the ingredients of this genre; their narrations, educate, connect and make you reflect.

    These three authors without a doubt and according to my perspective, used one of the oldest type of genre to write. The folkloric genre where they make known their historical background, their traditions, their culture with a first person methodology with a descriptive narration. This type of educational narrative caught my attention and awakened my senses, I believe that if I had the opportunity to start my own educational narrative; it would be this type of genre and I would transport it to this country where I began a new story of my life. Perhaps I would call it “The country that is not mine” I would focus on teaching single mothers that you can get ahead with a child and without family or friends in a strange place. Maybe I would use something more aggressive like: “With you, without you or in spite of you” I don’t know.

    Obviously there will always be questions like: Will I be able to teach something with my story? Will my experience help others? The truth is that it would be to help other women to improve themselves.

    • Lizbeth

      I also felt amazed when reading about their different experiences, culture, and the emotions that they each convey to their readers

  2. briansook

    Education Narrative

    While reading the three narrations I tried to put myself in their shoes and understand where they are coming from. While reading each narrative I felt like I was there with the narrator. A piece that was most important to me was the Donovan Livingston piece. And how he speaks so bravely about education and all the struggles he has been through to get the education he obtained today.How each person is able to obtain their education is different depending on a family’s financial situation. Some people may be fortunate enough to get an education but the way they use their advantages may differ from person to person.

    In the speech by Livingston he mentions how Harriet Tubman didn’t have an in class education but she was able to use her knowledge beneath her frustrations to follow the north star. Overall, this speech summarizes how important education is and how during times of need education is the most important tool. 

    • Indira

      Donovan Livingston piece was my favorite as well, he was so passionate and the fact that he is giving back to the community what he knows now it is admirable.

    • Brianna Santiago

      His Speech really impacted me and really is like a motivation to turn what’s negative about yourself and to move forward

  3. Jayleen

    During these three readings I just had one question going through my head. How can things change? What can we as minorities do to help not just us, but future generations get the education they deserve.

    No one should ever feel like they are under represented and they dont belong. Through out reading these stories and analyzing them i thought about their hard times going to school. Even if it takes place in different places and times it all connects to one problem, the school system needs to do better for the sake of their students.

    I believe this genre was targeted to the younger generation or people that are still in school. Since the authors made the readers feel like they can achieve what they put their minds to if they speak up on it. For example in Donovans speech he said “At the core none of us were meant to be common, we were born to be comments.” What I understood from that is that the school system tends to put us in groups making us blend into one. For example with the grading system a,b,c etc, not letting students reach their full potential only focusing on letters and numbers. No one gets to be “unique” with this system installed everything is in black and white, you pass or you fail.

    • Lizbeth

      I agree that the grading system is only focused on numbers, they judge you for not having a higher number and those who do get the opportunities.

  4. Indira

    I am agree with you, no one should feel under represented. The school system has to do better indeed, but it’s look as we are going backward, they cut the budget one more time for New York school. My question is, are they scared to see more and more minority people getting better education, better jobs?

    • Brianna Santiago

      I also agree the school system has changed so much and still has to change and just shows that the system needs change still in 2022.Teachers don’t get paid enough like teachers are people who help us learn they have to pay for books and even some minority teachers get treated differently I’ve seen it first hand .

  5. Lizbeth

    After reading the three examples of educational narrative, I noticed that these pieces all tell a different story for there audience. The purpose of these stories is to communicate their experiences. These experiences can leave an impact for those that can relate to them but also to people like me that feel the emotion that is being expressed. In all the three pieces of writing I found that the authors write a personal narrative as a story and give purpose to it. This makes the reader reflect on the writing, connect to it, and bring awareness to it. “American racism was a new and crushing reality… once they came to this country.” (Lorde) “Every fact can be turned into any number of stories.” (Olivarez) “Our stories are the ladders that make it easier for us to touch the sky.” (Livingston) Every author has a different perspective of education, and they all make the readers reflect on their stories. 

    My story is very small compared to the narratives we read, and I wonder if it would be a good education narrative. To sum up, I was thinking of writing about when my teacher during that time made us do an end of the year project and made presenting in front of the class part of the overall grade. I hate presenting, I feel very anxious, and I remember working hard for my project. She asked to speak to me and told me that she really liked my project but gave me a 65 for not presenting. It felt very unfair considering I gave it everything I could. The teacher didn’t really encourage us, she was very sarcastic and would use it to call out people. I’m not sure if my story will bring meaning to it and if people can relate to it. 

    • Mozeer_U

      I also agree and had a similar answer to you!

  6. Doriani

    After reading three examples from the genre of the “education narrative”: the Olivarez, Lorde, and Livingston pieces. It gave me the perfect point of view to gain clarity of the narrator’s struggles and achievements. Everybody as a different life and it’s their own main carácter, meaning we tend to ignore other people stories around us simply because we’re already living one. Reading captures a different life, struggle, story, achievements etc…The narrator purpose is to make an impact in readers by just using words and deliver a powerful message that stay within ourselves. “I wanted to write poems that confronted the questions I felt as a teen. I wanted to write poems in a way that might give a young person in similar circumstances some comfort.”(Olivarez) “I was left to write my angry letter to the president of the United States all by myself”(Loder) “So wake up — wake up! Lift your voicesUntil you’ve patched every hole in a child’s broken sky.”(Livingston). It demonstrate the power of words can inflict the ame emotions as the narrators. All these readings gave readers the motivation of action to change society, and that’s the true power being a narrator.

  7. Mozeer_U

    When I was reading the three narrations they all showed me the different types of struggles they went through. When Jose felt like he did not belong anywhere and felt even more alone when people from his country said that he was not a part of them. Audre was also going through a lot when people were being so cruel to their family even though they went to celebrate her graduation. Donovans was also very angry when his high school teacher threatened to cut off the mic when he was giving a speech just because he wanted to recite a poem. I think the genre was their educational narrative and how they were oppressed from it till they did something to make a change. For my own educational narrative I want to write about my 10th grade English teacher and how he changed my perspective of things. He changed it by showing us how to look at things more deeply. He always showed us the symbolism in the books that we were reading and I did not even know at first the symbolism that we were reading about. He even made a “deep board” when we gave our own thoughts and ideas on what something means and if we got 4 stars we would be able to write our name on the wall and it would be there forever. I feel like it really pushed my fellow classmates and peers and we really enjoyed it. My only question about writing an educational narrative is if I have to write about downsides that happened along the way.

    • Brianna Santiago

      I was also going to write down that question , I agree completely

  8. Jasper

    The three pieces from Olivarez, Lorde, and Livingston were all examples in the genre of education narratives. In the three pieces, the authors came to learn something they had previously not known.

    In “The Fourth of July,” the writer had been told by her parents about discrimination, but never had it explained to her. It was not until her fateful trip to Washington D.C. that she experienced discrimination firsthand, that she began to ask why blacks were being treated differently, that she asked why was no one else furious at the injustice.

    In Olivarez’s article, “Maybe I Could Save Myself by Writing,” we can see Olivarez felt lost, without a community. He felt he neither belonged in America, nor in Mexico. Olivarez discovered how poetry and writing were great ways of expressing his frustrations and question as a teen.

    In Livingston’s Convocation speech, he discovered through the help of his teacher, Ms. Parker, the power of his voice. His teacher helped to channel his excess energy to good use so that he could light up the world with his luminous allure.

    In starting my own education narrative, I should think about what core values I believe in. I should then think about what shaped me to have such a belief. Every value we hold dear has a story that comes with it. The question is what value I believe in and want to share most.

    The biggest question I have would be whether I am able to effectively convey the message I am trying to express through my story.  

    • Mozeer_U

      I really like how you went well in-depth!

    • Brianna Santiago

      I loved how you broke it down and how it’s separated which makes the explanation easier to read 🙂

  9. pedro gomez

    After reading all three I started to notice that in each reading the writer stood out since they were questioning what people believe to be normal. The first reading talked about how to improve your writing, but the questions that came from it were, why does it stand out? What’s the point of it? where could it be better? which makes people wonder how improving themselves will affect those around to improve their thinking. the second reading emphasized the idea of how some don’t feel include with society, like how the writer never felt at home until he started to question why through poetry. which add to the idea of improving the views in society by question the thing we learn in school or in life. the same way the writer in the last reading did. when she started to ask why do people believe this is the way it should be or why do people believe this is normal. All three readings explained how schools give one or a few ideas,opinions or facts on a topic but one can’t improve their way of thinking until they start to ask why.

  10. Karen Hermita

    From what I have seen so far I believe that the ingredients are something that was causing you to not succeed and how you changed it and possibly help other people. A concern about writing an education narrative of my own is it not relating anything to the topic we are supposed to do. For example, I only have one memory of the moment when I was some grade in high school and it was in the fall by October since I was thinking about what I wanted to dress up for Halloween and we were writing an essay about ourselves and I remember my ELA teacher pulled me out and asked me if I knew how to speak English because I never talked. I replied “yes” and she said it also made her feel like I didn’t speak English because I looked like I wasn’t born here. And in my head I was like and how exactly am I supposed to dress us and we didn’t have a choice on what to wear since we used uniform. But in me, I wanted to talk I just didn’t because in elementary school they will always call my mom in saying I talked too much and I needed to let other kids talk which discourage me to participate. This story for me feels like it can relate to the topic but I am still unsure about the outcome of what I got out of it. Or if it even relates to it. 

  11. Jiachengzhao

    I think a very obvious “Ingrediant” of an educational narrative peice is that it teaches a lesson and conveys something to you. All these peices talks about the obstacles that they went through and learned/discovered something of their own. Of course, it’s not just the authors that have, we as readers also discovers/learns from reading their peices.

    I think a good place to get started with my educational narrative peice would be my background, beileves and culture. Very similarly to Olivarez’s “Maybe I can save myself by writing” he talked about how he wasn’t able to belong in both the United States and Mexico at the start of his peice. I have a similar experience because I also am hanging in between two cultures and I was never able to fit in completely with either one. I was never fully chinese enough, but neither was I American enough. However, eventually I discovered myself and thought, I don’t have to try so hard to conform to other people. I can be myself, and I think that’s a pretty good lesson to be learned.

    • Jiachengzhao

      (Continuation, I accidentally posted)

      Alot of people in America, not just me and Jose Olivarez has faced this issue before. Not being able to fit in to either culture. I think that while it could suck, to not be able to fit in to either, it could also be rather a good thing to have yourself immersed in both cultures. Although even today, I wouldn’t be able to join in on some conversations my more-chinese friends talk about, and other times, my American friends. I’m still proud to be able to speak both languages well, and having an understanding of both cultures can be really interesting sometimes.

      • Lizbeth

        I also face the same issue of not being able to fit in to either culture and reading that other people deal with this makes me feel like I’m not alone.

  12. Brianna Santiago

    From what I’ve seen and read in the texts so far, a common thread that was used in each of the texts to develop their poets was the ability to express their emotions through imagery and ethos techniques. It seems like from every sentence, my imagination as the reader is increasingly broadened due to the crafts the author’s use to engage in a “emotional battle” with the reader. Some examples from the first text by Jose Olivarez in which he explains how when he was a teenager he felt he “belonged nowhere”, “walked around with my head on the ground” and was just “trying to get through the day”. You can see that by the use of word choice like “head on the ground” ignites feelings of abandonment and strife due to lack of attention. An example from the second passage is when Phyllis, a younger of the main author Audre Lorde tells Audre about the time “nuns allowed only the white kids in her class would all be assigned a hotel, excluding her in the process.” The nuns even gave her back her deposit because they couldn’t accept it. This shows the imagery of sad, shame, and feelings unworthiness because of how someone else is treating you. And in the last Livingston piece, the Donovans were highly upset when trying to perform a poem due to their high school almost cutting their mics as they tried to recite the poem. These unshakable moments in a young’s kids mind can make or break their childhood uprooting all the way into adulthood and by experiencing these events young you get a chance to have advantages mentally as you get older.

    A place I think to start my educational narrative would be now in college, and the question I have is with my educational narrative help others .And how Were able to perceive our levels of thinking were changed throughout the years .

  13. Jill Belli

    This week, as we work to revise Unit 1 drafts, we’re going to continue our conversation about “What is an Education Genre?”

    Take some time to revisit the readings + annotations (in Perusall and on Schedule) and everyone’s comments here, and let’s keep the discussion going. Developing a better understanding of the conventions of the Education Narrative Genre through these example texts will help you to strengthen your own Education Narratives!

    To get the ball rolling, below I’m offering another example of the genre. I find this text particularly compelling! Take time to watch and annotate it (the transcript is provided as well, if you want to follow the video along there), and add your thoughts here. I’d also love for you to share examples of education narratives that you know or find!

    Three Ways to Speak English by Jamila Lyiscott (transcript)

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