Saving a City: New Haven’s Minority Teachers and Community Organizations

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For long, New Haven has been known as the “murder capital” of Connecticut and at one point was considered one of the most dangerous cities to live in throughout the entire country. Growing up in the inner city, some may feel perfectly fine. However, there are some that have the fear of being shot at in the morning waiting at the bus stop or celebrating a team victory with family and friends. Living in a home with a father who has been a high school principal in New Haven Public Schools for close to 20 years, many New Haven residents give credit to African American educators as community leaders and are the leading factors for helping improve neighborhoods with a high volume of crime and schools with high dropout rates. Apparently, having more African American leaders within an urban school can ultimately change the learning culture. While examining the relationship between minority teachers and student outcomes, it leads to the question of: has the hiring of African American educators in New Haven public schools actually led to an increase in the graduation rate and/or led to a decrease in the crime rate, or is this simply a perception by the public?

While people [from New Haven] believe that the increase of African-American educators

Percentage of minority teachers decreases

has increased the graduation rate and decreased the crime rate, in reality, community organizations deserve the credit for helping to reshape the city and its schools. Of the students attending New Haven schools, the majority of them are of the Black or Latino race. It is true that many students would agree that it is those teachers of color that helped motivate them to do better in school and plan a future for themselves. However, over the last decade, the number of minority teachers has been decreasing each year. Although it is almost a surprise that the number of African-American teachers have decreased, what are the underlying factors that helped produce such numbers that is improving the city’s graduation numbers and high volume of violent crime?

Crime History

New Haven 4th dangerous City

For those who know of New Haven, the first thing that the city is associated with, even before Yale, is the amounts of violent crime that the city has seen in recent years. Just in 2010, “The Elm City follows Flint, Mich., Detroit, Mich. and St. Louis, Mo. as the U.S. city with the largest violent crime to population ratio”[1]. Of the violent crimes, shootings are the main issues and it is our youth who are the main culprits and victims. Newhallville, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in New Haven, is the home of 80% of the violent crimes that take place within the city. Just by word of mouth people are afraid to go through “The ‘Ville” during the day or the night simply because they are afraid of being robbed or even shot at for wearing the wrong colors. One of the main causal factors of this violent history is due to the distribution of drugs.

From 2008-2010 Newhallville had been run by drug lord, 40 Cal Al, who was just a teenager, and someone who I went to high school with. Affiliated with a 30 member gang known as R2: BWE (Read St: Beef with Everybody), they were known as definitely one of the hardest crews in town. “If you have a problem with them, your life is on the line. It’s not a crew that shoots you in your legs”[2] states a member of New Haven’s Street Outreach Program. Over several years leading up to the gang members’ arrests in 2010 they had been tied to numerous murders, attempted armed assaults on cops, aggravated assaults, firearms discharges, and street robberies. Ranging from ages 14 to 17 years old, these members sold drugs and attacked random people just to gain credit on the streets.[3]

Average SAT scores

As early as 1995, when the New Haven Gang task forces were able to shut down many of the national gangs that were led by adults, the city’s youth began to take over from what they learned from their parents who had either been killed or incarcerated. “The city’s kids took the lesson to heart: you fight for what you stand for. And, in the temporary absence of strong gangs to stand for, they stood for the only thing they had left: their neighborhoods”[4]. Reflecting from the amount of crime, New Haven was also known for its low performing test scores and low graduation rate. In 2004, two of the largest public high schools in New Haven were only graduating nearly 68% percent of its seniors, while the average SAT scores were just over 800 which were much lower than the state average[5]. This was definitely a problem because students were spending much more time on the streets, rather than in school.

As Crime Rate Drops, Graduation Rate Rises

According to the crime information from the Department of Police Services, the number of homicides recorded from 2003-2009 have decreased by 3%[6]

Crime rate

and the graduation has increased by nearly 15%[7]. The fact that less shooting are occurring within the city means that less teens are spending most of their time dealing drugs and holding guns, and are actually going to school. Kermit Carolina, New Haven mayoral candidate, and current James Hillhouse principal is one of many African American educators who is receiving credits for these statistics. Students feel that Carolina, as well as several other minority educators are “so driven, inspired and determined to support, nurture and encourage their children — their students” and have never encountered such teachers like that in previous years[8]. Just this year New Haven Public schools has increased its graduation rate from 58-70 percent. The underlying factor however is not the increase of minority teachers within the school. Although, there is note the Board of Education has been initiating programs with the police to identify students who are considered to be involved with gang activity, the number of minority staff decreases each year. According to the New Haven Register, “the hard work and perseverance of city students, who with parents, families and the community play a critical role in the success of School Change.”[9]

New Haven Promise Scholarship Motivates Students

City officials have said that the collaboration with community organizations, such as Yale University, Yale-New Haven Hospital, and the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven[10] have all contributed to the cleaning up of city and ultimately helping students to graduate and pursue college. However, to some students, chasing higher education is not always the reality. This consists of various reasons: financial, lack of motivation, or they do not know how to choose college. In Connecticut there are several universities: liberal arts, private, or public that the New Haven Promise Scholarship fund promises to assist any student who can maintain a 3.0 grade point average throughout high school. Though some may think that the college prep program begins in high school, it actually starts when children are first enrolled into kindergarten at New Haven Public Schools. The organizations motives are to create a “Pathway to Promise that is a Yearlong Journey to for a child’s Future Success that is going to create a college-going culture in all New Haven Public School preK-8 schools”[11]. As part of the inaugural class of the Promise scholars in 2011, it seems like the scholarship provides an atmosphere that motivates students to not only get a high school diploma, but eventually attend a university. Just in the past year the graduation rate has reached its highest in the last decade at 70.5% percent while 42% of the high school seniors have applied for the scholarship.[12] As the Promise’s Motto states, “work hard, get great grades, and look for a letter from us in July”[13] which gives students all of the motivation to exceed the best.

Programs that Benefit the Community

The Kiyama Movement, founded by New Haven resident as well as civil-rights activist and defense attorney Michael Jefferson, was developed “for the expressed purpose of challenging select behavior in the broader black community that serves to impede the collective advancement of black people.”[14] Jefferson believed that the reason why our schools were failing before is because our kids didn’t have someone in their ears telling them right from wrong. He states that this “dysfunction” in the city is caused by, “the fact that the black male does not receive the type of positive guidance that he should receive from other black males.”[15] Beginning in 2005 This “War on Ignorance” has a pledge each year, inaugurating 40 black men who swear to do all in their power to make this world a better place for their generation. “Kiyama has helped those young boys turn into men”, Jefferson states. “In the last 8 years I’ve had nearly 300 people take the pledge and they have all been positive in school and the community. After you make yourself a better person, then you help out the city, those who need it the most.”[16]

Since 2005, the Kiyama Movement has been working to get young men from the Newhallville area to take part in its pledge. In prior years, Newhallville, an urban neighborhood and possibly one with the highest crime rate in the city, had been suffering from its youth being taken in by the streets and ultimately dropping out of school. James Hillhouse High School, located right on the outskirts of Newhallville has been used as the home for the organization, recruiting its African American male students to take part in the “war on ignorance” and ultimately spreading the message along in order to resist self-destruction of the black community.

Newhallville as a "Promise Land"

Prior to 2003, the Dixwell “Q” House was a community center for students attend after school until their parents got out of work, but its main intentions were to keep them away from the negative influences of the urban streets.[17] Attending the “Q” House for numerous summers during my younger years I can say that it was very beneficial for the entire the community. Although there were many fights between the kids who also attended, it was much better to have that in a controlled environment where there were adults who could quickly resolve problems, rather than being on the streets where guns or other weapons could have easily gotten involved. The “Q” House served as an outlet for urban kids after the long school day and even weekends. Although academic achievement was not emphasized as much as it should have been, programs such as arts, dance, music, and recreational time were offered from the time school was out, until it was dinner time. While the city is fighting to bring back the “Q” House a new community center has opened to replace it. Opening in 2005 the Dixwell-Yale University Community Learning Center, run by Yale student interns, is a non-profit organization that has been home to nearly 10,000 students each year that participate in either after school or summer programs. This community based learning center, in the middle of an urban neighborhood has been known for its assistance in education improvements by offering tutoring, computer literacy, mentoring and athletics.[18]




To answer the question of has the hiring of more African American educators in New Haven Public Schools actually led to an increase in the graduation rate and/or led to a decrease in the crime rate, or is this simply a perception by the public? The answer is no, because statistics show, that each year from as far back as 1995, that the number of minority teachers has decreased by about 15%.

2008-09 percentage of minority staff

Although the community may perceive that it is indeed African American teachers who deserve credit for reshaping the city and its schools, it is actually community organizations who should be worthy of the recognition. Teaming up with community activist and Yale University, these community outreach programs are helping lead the city of New Haven and its schools to a bright future to come.





[1] Rosenfeld, Everett. “New Haven Fourth Most Dangerous City in U.S., According to Preliminary FBI Data.” Cross Campus, n.d.

[2] Bass, Oaul. “‘R2’ Gang Leaves Trail Of Violence  |  New Haven Independent.” New Haven Independent, March 26, 2012.

[3] Bass, Oaul. “‘R2’ Gang Leaves Trail Of Violence  |  New Haven Independent.” New Haven Independent, March 26, 2012.

[4] Weiner, Ali. “Pledging Allegiance” The News Journal, October 12,2010.




[8] Bailey, Melissa. “Hillhouse Rallies For Carolina  |  New Haven Independent.” New Haven Independent, January 10, 2012.

[9] Abdul-Karim, Shahid. “New Haven Public Schools Graduation Rate Grows to 70.5 Percent.” New Haven Register – Serving New Haven, CT, January 22, 2013.

[10] Abdul-Karim, Shahid. “New Haven Public Schools Graduation Rate Grows to 70.5 Percent.” New Haven Register – Serving New Haven, CT, January 22, 2013.


[12] Smith, Abbe. “More Students Than Expected Apply for New Haven Promise Program.” New Haven Register – Serving New Haven, CT, March 30, 2011.



[15] Ross, Andy. “Can Newhallville Become A ‘Promise Land’?  |  New Haven Independent.” New Haven Independent, March 1, 2011.

[16] Appel, Allan. “40 Black Men Take The ‘Kiyama’ Pledge  |  New Haven Independent.” New Haven Independent, May 24, 2010.

[17] Medina-Tayac, Sebastian. “Residents, Yalies Call for Q House.” Yale Daily News, October 11, 2012.


How have African American Educators Saved My City?

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Research Question: How have African American Educators Saved My City?

Relevance:  Over the past decade the New Haven Public Schools have been hiring more African American workers to be placed in the schools. Whether it consists of giving administrative positions to African Americans or hiring black athletic coaches, there is a noticeable difference in the increase in high school graduation rate and a decrease in murder rate. For long New Haven has been known as the “murder capital” of Connecticut and at one point was considered one of the most dangerous cities to live in throughout the entire country. Personally, I have always felt safe being a resident in the inner city, however there are some who have the fear of being shot at on the way to school in the morning. Growing up in a home where my father is a high school principal, I hear it all the time about “how he changed those kids’ lives” or “how he got this group of students off of the streets and helped them find jobs.” Having an African American leader within an urban school can ultimately change the learning culture. Seeing a men and women of color in the hallways motivates students to want to graduate; they want to “be like Mr. Jones when they grow up” because he has a nice house, drives a nice car, and has a family, and guess what? He isn’t white. “Making it out of the hood” and then ultimately giving back is what these African American educators have done for the City of New Haven. Through my research I hope to display how African American educators’ presence helped changed the struggling lives of the youth in New Haven. Also, to show how that has impacted the degree of violence within the city and how more seniors are graduating high school and going to college.

Research Process: Initially, I thought my research process would be easy. Since I live in New Haven I can just look in the local newspaper to find instances of how African American educators benefit the community. I figured I wouldn’t have to search everywhere around the web, or try to find many books in the library, or even search a bunch of databases. The first step I took was visited the New Haven Register website and search for “principals”. Many options came up. I scrolled down for a few minutes and nothing I was really looking for came up. Then I added “New Haven principals”. Once many articles popped up that seemed relevant, I thought I was finished. After clicking on a few, they didn’t really give me much. Because I know many of the teachers and principals in the high schools I decided to type their names in in the search bar. I actually found a lot of decent articles that would help. I needed sources from another website though. New Haven Independent, an online newspaper, covers stories in all of the sections in New Haven. Done by local writers, their stories are never biased so I knew that this is what I needed. I found a bunch of sources on graduation rate, crime rate, different articles on the hiring of multicultural administrators, and programs led by educators that help “clean up” the city. With the assistance of both newspapers I felt that they provided me with enough sources to help me find good research. They also provided links to other websites which will allow me to go deeper into to what I am specifically looking for.


“23% Of HS Grads Finished College Within 6 Years  |  New Haven Independent.” New Haven Independent, n.d.

  • This article shows the college graduation rate of New Haven high school graduates.

“40 Black Men Take The ‘Kiyama’ Pledge  |  New Haven Independent.” New Haven Independent, n.d.

  • This article shows how Wilbur Cross Assistant Principal Larry Conaway, and Hamden High School Principal Gary Highsmith help by delivering their message during the Kiyama Pledge.

“Can Newhallville Become A ‘Promise Land’?  |  New Haven Independent.” New Haven Independent, n.d.

  • This article shows how “that the group’s main objective is to reduce crime by reaching out to the families and young people with a “don’t shoot” message”

“Four New Principals Named  |  New Haven Independent.” New Haven Independent, n.d.

  • This article shows the hiring of new principals in New Haven public schools, half of them being multicultural

“Hillhouse Stars Honored  |  New Haven Independent.” New Haven Independent, n.d.

  • This article show African American student athletes succeeding in school and in the playing field.

“Hyde Leadership Academy Using Grant Money to Offer New Health Science Classes.” New Haven Register – Serving New Haven, CT, n.d.

  • This article shows how Principal John Russell “seeks to incorporate lessons on health-related topics into subjects like reading, math and social studies and add a class on African-American history which highlights health care issues for the black community.”

“Kiyama Movement Plans Community Program Wednesday in New Haven.” New Haven Register – Serving New Haven, CT, n.d.

  • This article shows The Kiyama Movement which “recognizes teachers as essential components of the educational process, but notes the most important components are parents, students and the broader community where students live and play”

“‘Tough’ Talk  |  New Haven Independent.” New Haven Independent, n.d.

  • This article shows “that times are tough in New Haven, but not to worry, because the Black and Hispanic caucus is “tough and it is moving.”



Video Analysis: The Cartel

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The documentary, The Cartel, by director Bob Bowdon covers the quality of American education, primary focusing on the public schooling in New Jersey. One of the main arguments that Bowdon brings up is how can New Jersey have the highest spending level per-student in the country, yet its students fail to perform well in school.
On average 37% of high school students can’t read at the 8th grade level and 90% of those with a high school diploma failed an 8thgrade math test.

The Cartel, 0:04:38

The problem is that the state is putting money into the schools, but where is it all going? Throughout the film parents as well as teachers are interviewed and all can agree that the school system is corrupt, where the staff on the school board are much more satisfied with their own salaries rather than student performance.

According to former teacher Beverly Jones, “The children are not the focus. Money is the focus and what happened to the money, no one knows because the money does not reach the classroom”[1]. At JKF high school in Patterson, per classroom, it costs roughly $313,000. Minus the teacher salary is nearly $55,000 there is about $250,000 that goes elsewhere[2].

The Cartel, 0:07:13

Bowdon points out that in this corrupt system, the administration in Newark doesn’t deserve such a high pay because the schools aren’t reaching the level where students can actually learn. It’s ridiculous that in a high school classroom of about 20 people, half of them cannot read or cannot do simple elementary school math. For the parents, whom do they blame for their children not getting the proper education that they need to be successful? Is it the teachers? Or the state? In my opinion it is both. In 2007 Shabazz High School spent $30million on a new athletic complex, but 1 out of every 7 seniors at the school tested lower than proficient in math. In the Abbot school district ¼ of the budgets were wasted, leaving schools with little money for reconstruction sites. In one case $1billion just disappeared and no one had an answer to why. The teachers union is also a problem. Bowdon brought up the point that bad teachers rarely get fired. In an example that probably shocked many viewers was the teacher who actually hit students. One would think that he would get fired immediately, but it took 2 years to get him out. Also, there was teacher in California who taught 17 years while being unable to read and write. According to Hector Bonilla, a principal who was fired for reporting a teacher watching inappropriate videos says,“[these teachers unions] play dirty because it is so much money involved”[3]. Another parent claims that the system, “has been pimping their children for a very long time”[4]. Still the New Jersey Schools Development Authority credits its schools for having the highest graduation rate, yet the drop out rate increases each year.

The Cartel, 0:22:07

A solution for these problems are to get students into schools where the teachers are willing to explain work, rather than just handing it to the children carelessly – if they do it fine, if they don’t, fine. In magnet and charter schools students are performing much better than they did in previous schools and are actually enjoying what they are learning. One student mentioned that in his old school, there were fights everyday. Since he had transferred schools he is learning in an environment where the teachers care and he has gained a feeling of safety.

The motive of this film is to ultimately open the eyes of the taxpayers, policy makers, and reformers to show that not just schools in New Jersey, but also schools around the country are ruining the lives of children. Because of money, children’s dreams of having that great job in future are getting cut shorter each day. The viewers are able to see the joyous expressions on those who get accepted into better schools, whereas those who don’t get their lottery number called are left to suffer in failing schools.

The Cartel, 01:18:07

Still there are critics who just don’t buy in to Bob Bowdon’s reasoning. Children Left Behind, a New York Times article by Jeannette Catsoulis, bashes the film stating, “[Bowdon] employs an exposé-style narration lousy with ad hominems and emotional coercion. Visually horrid and intellectually unsatisfying, “The Cartel” demonstrates only that its maker has even more to learn about assembling a film than about constructing an argument”[5].

Although the director does not do such a good job on the editing process, he excels in conveying the message that our schools are corrupt. Reviewers call the film a revelation as it portrays drastic numbers like only 35% percent of American seniors being proficient in reading and 25% in math. Bowdon points out that the most money is going to the worst schools that are considered “dropout factories”.

The Cartel, 01:00:46

With overpaid administrators and bad teachers the nation’s school board has to do a better job in finding a way where students can enjoy, learn, and feel safe a school all the time regardless he geographic location.


[1] The Cartel, directed by Bob Bowdon, (2009; Moving Picture Institute), 0:24:40.

[2] The Cartel, 0:07:13.

[3] The Cartel, 0:46:10.

[4] The Cartel, 0:58:32.

[5] Jeannette Catsoulis, “Children Left Behind”, New York Times, April, 15, 2010, accessed February 23, 2013,

How do you find reviews and essays about video documentaries?

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Prompt: How do you find reviews and essays about video documentaries? Describe your search strategy and cite the 5 most thoughtful reviews or background essays on a designated video documentary. Your search results may include scholarly and/or popular press, but do your best not to include those featured on the film’s companion site. (Hint: the goal of this question is to help your classmates identify thoughtful sources that do not necessarily agree with the policy stance taken by the film.) Add a brief explanation for why you recommended each of the five sources you selected.

When starting my source detective question the first thing I did was go to the Google search bar and typed in what I was trying to find; in that case the film Waiting for Superman. Initially the first thing that popped up was the movie’s website. Before watching a movie I’d like to do some prior reading so the Wikipedia link is my first instinct to click on. The reason why Wikipedia is actually a useful source is because it can be edited, therefor is always relevant, and anyone can contribute whether biased or unbiased. The Wikipedia source helped me have a brief understanding of what the film is about. 

But then, I wanted to see some actual clips of the movie, maybe the trailer. YouTube gave a quick 2 minute trailer showing the emotion and almost the drama that a Wikipedia article cannot show. Although it is biased in the film’s favor, it gives the future viewers what to expect when watching. However the trailer only gives a single perspective. Rotten Tomatoes gives the perspective of nearly 17,000 raters and 114 critics. Seeing that the average rate was a 4/5 stars I figured that the audiences felt touch in what they were watching. The comments ranged from those who had similar experiences while in school to actual teachers totally agreeing with the message of the film.

However out of the 114 critics, there were 12 who considered the movie to be “rotten” and they expressed how some of these teaching strategies don’t work or how the director did a poor job not portraying the obstacles students faced outside of school that led to failing performances in school. Overall Rotten Tomatoes was a great source for me because it shows the good and the bad. Not to mention it being number 5 out of 3,540,000 search results on Google.

After unsuccessful attempts on JStor and the Trinity library data base searching for essays, I went back to Google. I spotted a Time Magazine link and knew Time likes to write up these “heroic” articles in order to give a normal person praise. In this example it was Geoffrey Canada and Michelle Rhee, two ordinary teachers who cared about the lives of children rather than their own salary. According to Time, these are the types of people that we need in the education system to “save our schools”. I feel that the purpose of a Time article is to help turn regular people into heroes, unlike the simple essay done by a college professor. In my opinion they do a good job because they depict these people as “tough sheriffs brought in to clean up a bad town”.

Scrolling down allowed me to find an article called NOT Waiting for Superman so I clicked on it in a heartbeat. This article is basically stating that the film is like a fairy tale, misleading everyone who is watching. I found it to be comical because it’s saying the steps that are being made to improve public schools: getting rid of “bad teachers”, firing principals, and bringing in new charter school teachers will not work and will end up hurting public schools. This alternative article attracts a bunch of commenters, most who are teachers who agree that the teachers cannot control a situation outside of school that is causing their students to fail and the “charter school solution” is not the way. This source helped me see the negative side of the film.

I was finished with Google and I wanted to check out what the Hartford Courant had to say. One of the first articles that popped up was one by Diane Ravitch. Since I had been reading her book The Death and Life of the Great American School System I was fascinated to see what she had to say. I liked this article because she gave a lot of statistics about state test scores which the other sources don’t give. Rather than being so much of a critic about the film, Ravitch gives out useful facts that can help an audience understand how students are actually performing in the schools that are failing and charter schools will help pan out the future of failing students.

Work Cited:

“Waiting for Superman (2010).” Waiting for Superman. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2013. 

Corliss, Richard. “Waiting for ‘Superman’: Are Teachers the Problem?” Time Magazine. N.p., 29 Sept. 2010. Web. 22 Feb.,8599,2021951,00.html

Karp, Stan. “We’re NOT “Waiting for Superman” .” famfamfam, 20 Sept. 2010. Web. 22 Feb.

Ravitch, Diane. “The Myth of Charter Schools.” New York Review of Books, 10 Nov. 2010. Web. 22 Feb.

Plagiarism is NO GOOD!

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Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

Sean Corcoran, an economist at New York University, studied the teacher evaluation systems in New York City and Houston. He found that the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

An economist at New York University, Sean Corcoran, studied the teacher evaluation systems in New York City and Houston. In his results he found that the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

According to Sean Corcoran, an economist at New York University who studied the teacher evaluation systems in New York City and Houston, the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points (Ravitch 270).

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

According to NYU economist Sean Corcoran’s findings, there is a flaw in the teacher evaluating system in New York City, therefor causing a teacher’s ranking, compared to others, to fall anywhere from plus 28 or minus 28 points (Ravitch 270).

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

After studying the teacher evaluation systems in New York and Houston, NYU economist Sean Corcoran reported “that the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was either plus or minus 28 points” (Ravitch 270).

What I’d Like to Learn

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Thoughout the course of the semester I would like to learn how to write as well as analyze web journals. In my previous class students never had the opportunity to do such a thing, so having this opportunity is helpful for me simply because it is a new skill as well as a challenging task that can improve my writing.