Dr. Venetta Whitaker
Teacher for Life
TEACHING OTHER PEOPLE'S CHILDREN (2012)
The compilation of stories described in Teaching Other People’s Children grew out of the experiences of Venetta Whitaker and Venetta Rowles, two widely acclaimed mother and daughter educators who have dedicated their lives to teaching vast and diverse casts of children in elementary, middle, and senior high schools across the nation and in remote corners of the world. These two women offer a persuasive multidimensional tool - narrative teaching - as a springboard to learning. Narrative teaching provides a series of frameworks in the context of instructive storytelling, which addresses the learner’s human sensitivities within and beyond the basics. In short, it puts human faces on the children we teach.
This commonsense book is grounded in the reality of true and utterly authentic narratives that focus not only on classroom lessons and pedagogical issues, but take into account the human problems children face in our schools today (e.g., dealing with violence, death, bullying and divorce). This literature highlights the absurd challenges teachers face as they prepare the nation’s youth for taking part in an increasingly threatening society. Although the target audience for Teaching Other People’s Children is teachers and educators, the book is a must-read for parents, community organizers, the media workforce, policy-makers, police officers, mental health specialists, politicians, textbook editors, librarians, homeschoolers - and particularly teacher-bashers.
Teaching Other People’s Children speaks to the power of story in the voices of children and teachers. It draws attention to the authors’ appeal for truth in education. Furthermore, it articulates both women’s conviction that the story of teaching and learning must be retold from the anecdotal experiences of students, and those teachers who wake up each morning worrying about other people’s children.
"At one time or another, I suppose most new teachers experience a Maurice Moment. A final delusion. A blinding glimpse at reality. A feeling of belonging to another world. It’s that flash you get when a student heaves you, kicking and screaming, outside of yourself and forces you to realize you just don’t know as much as you think."
HONEYSUCKLE PLAITS (2009)
The collections of narratives that appear in this book include six short stories, excerpts from a nonfictional novel about a friend who committed suicide, and a three-act screenplay written for the author’s daughter, Venetta Rowles. All the accounts are based on true events. What gives these stories power is the personal relationship between the author and the individuals about whom she writes. Some of the narratives are told from the viewpoint of children. A few anecdotes reflect the perspective of the elderly. Conversely, all of the stories offer a glimpse into the hearts and minds of unforgettable people of different lifestyles and backgrounds with whom Whitaker shared moments of tenderness, laughter, tears and hope.
“Close your eyes and breathe deeply. You will smell the honeysuckle vines. Inside your mind’s eye, feel the silent melodies, like waves rippling over the rocks, and hear fussy little animals squabbling nearby. Allow the sensation of peace, quiet and tranquility work its way from the inside out—much like the hunter experienced when she emerge from the woods—for you are well on your way to becoming a Stillhunter. “
THE STILLHUNTER (2008)
The Stillhunter is a book that needs few words. It’s a powerful collection of the author’s poetry and artwork. The uplifting verse and radiant paintings capture the love, hopes and joys of people worldwide. Here, the reader is taken on a literary excursion that vividly links the terrain between personal experience and poetic imagination.
“Close your eyes and breathe deeply,” Whitaker tells her reader. “You will smell the honeysuckle vines. Inside your mind, feel the silent melodies rippling like waves over the rocks. Hear fussy little animals squabbling nearby. Allow the sensation of peace, and tranquility work their way from inside outward—much like the hunter experiences when she emerges from the woods—for you are well on your way to becoming a Stillhunter.”
“It is written that Stillhunters were found in certain African and Native American tribes. Hunters from villages were sent into the forest in quest of absolute quiet. .. During this meditative interlude, as hunters exhaled and inhaled, they expanded their consciousness of grace. Confusion faded. At the completion of this spiritual course they became Stillhunters, distinguished members of their society destined to enrich the lives of those around them.
MA JOHNSON AND HER KATRINA KATS (2008)
Ma Johnson and Her Katrina Kats is a picture story book in rhyme featuring fine art illustrations rendered in brilliant colors and black and white images. The verse is fresh, melodious and easy for children to memorize. The book was inspired by riveting narratives—storm stories of hope—told to Whitaker by victims of Hurricane Katrina, with whom she work in New Orleans. In spite of the sorrow caused by the hurricane and flood, animals offered children a reason to rejoice. This is a story about a loving old lady who, after the hurricane, provides a safe place for homeless cats. It endorses animals as unique worthy creations of God to be appreciated for the beauty they share with us. The character was inspired by memories of the author’s late grandmother, whom neighbors nicknamed, Ma Johnson, who is remembered—among other things—for her adoration for the myriad of beloved cats that followed her wherever she went. It is well known that images of soft playful cats staring unblinkingly fascinate children and connect them worldwide with their understanding of the spirit of love.
“When Ma Johnson gives the kitty milk to drink,
It snatches a wink by the kitchen sink.
She accepts the kat with a gentle embrace
And soon more kitties are all over the place.”