April 01, 1999 1 min read

Words And Pictures: Wendy Ewald uses photography to help teach writing in the Durham, North Carolina, public schools. In 1997, she asked some 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students at Club Boulevard Elementary School to choose the parts of their bodies that they liked best or that told the most about them. Ewald then photographed the children using a view camera. “Once we were satisfied with the image,” Ewald writes, “the child took it back into the classroom and wrote about it.” Excerpts and photos from the project, called “The Best Part of Me,” appear in the Winter 1999 issue of Doubletake, the quarterly journal edited by Harvard child psychologist Robert Coles.

The children’s writing is surprisingly poetic. Donyea Elliot wrote,

"My eyes are brown and black. Big and brown. I see lots of colors around. I see me I see you....The eye is good, the eye is mad, when you are mad it can seem very sad."

Given his last name, it’s not surprising that Andrew Legge wrote about...his legs:

"Legs, legs, you carry me a long way. You hold me up when I'm out to play. Legs, legs, you're so strong. So that I'm able to run very long....You don't get hurt very easily. I just hate when people call you measly."

Tramika Davis chose her hands, even though she thinks they’re “old” and “wrinkled.” But Colette Cosner picked her hands

"because they turn the pages of a book slowly and magically. Reading makes me happy. They wipe my eyes when I am sad. They threaten the things that make me mad. They pull the covers over my head when I am scared. They feel my forehead when I am sick. They write what I am writing now. They touch the precious earth and ground. They dance. They act. They're slender and unique. They're mine-that's all, slender and unique."

Under The Influence: Sadly, teachers don’t always realize the profound impact they have on their students. It’s the nature of the profession: Students graduate, while teachers stay behind. With that in mind, the online magazine Salon ( invited some of its contributors to write about the teachers they loved. It comes as no surprise that most of them singled out English teachers.

For Carol Lloyd, it was Skip Sherman, who “created a cult, not of personality, but of the tenderness and toughness of the written word.” Scott Rosenberg praises Nathaniel Glidden, his 7th grade language arts teacher, for etching “the supple rhythm and texture of Elizabethan verse into my cranium, almost as if I’d been playing a role in a repertory company.” Glidden died of cancer even before Rosenberg graduated from high school, “but his teaching still guides my typing fingers every time I try to make a written word sing.” Fiona Morgan was transformed by the gruff Mr. Williams, also a high school English teacher, who implored his students to “omit unnecessary words!” Morgan: “It took three years for me to realize that this cranky old man who liked to howl at his students was actually the most passionate and visionary teacher I would ever have.”

--David Hill