Me and Maya


 This research is based on the autobiography All God's children need traveling shoes by Maya Angelou. Her experiences and work made her exhibit traits of a master student discussed in the first chapter of Ellis’ book. The book describes the traits required in becoming a master student. These traits have also been viewed from the perspective of other scholars. The research shall elucidate some of the traits of a master student such as motivation, self-discovery, appreciation of diversity, truthfulness, acknowledgement of positive qualities, technology mastery, having healthy habits, multiple intelligence, learning through senses, meta-cognition, attitude formation, reprogramming and replacement, flexibility, positivist intention and clarity of goals. They shall be viewed as they applied in Maya Angelou’s life. The research also includes a description of why I chose the autobiography based on the writer’s attributes and abilities. There is also a practical application of the traits in my personal experience. Finally, the whole write up shall be recapped in the conclusion section.

Maya Angelou was a writer and poet of African Ghanaian ancestry. She has authored at least seven autobiographies including The collected biographies of Maya Angelou and The heart of a woman in addition of the autobiography under discussion. The All God’s children need traveling shoes could be described as a success autobiography. When looked from Ellis’ perspective, the work could be considered a personal narrative.


The concept of ‘master student’ in this write up was considered to mean ‘a master’ as described by Dave Ellis. Following the descriptions given by Ellis, Maya Angelou is considered to have been a great ‘master’ in her works. Secondly, Ellis’ book does not only focus on students but also on instructors in which category Angelou could also fit. This is well seen in the autobiography herein discussed- as Angelou shares such traits with Ellis’ prescriptions. There are many traits described in Ellis’ book on how a student could become a master in terms of skill. Some aspects have been expressly mentioned while others have just been connoted by Ellis. According to Ellis, a master is a person who is skilled beyond a mere technique.

The first chapter of Ellis’ book has been dubbed ‘First Steps’. The chapter is not only student-friendly but also instructor-friendly. Student-friendly texts make students visualize difficult concepts (Mundell and DeLairo 8).  According to the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, chapter one is helpful in determining what learning experiences best match the students’ abilities; similar to the views of Ellis, Doug and Mancina.

Maya Angelou was born in 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. She studied in Stamps (Arkansas) and San Francisco (California). The region in which Angelou grew up was characterized with racism: The Whites were considered more superior than the Blacks. Moreover, Maya Angelou remained steadfast in principle. This is in tandem with what Ellis described about becoming a master student: Consciousness of the diversities existent among persons.  According to Ellis (23), the first step in mastering oneself is being truthful. This entails actually determining what works for ones life and that which does not. Maya Angelou used to acknowledge her positive qualities.

As a master student, she was resourceful. This was exemplified by the way she wondered how the article on capitalism and racism could be summarized in 300 words as the director of the Ghanaian Times had requested (Angelou 58). In 1965, she organized a march in Ghana to support Martin Luther King’s main Washington march. Additionally, Angelou is presented as a time conscious lady; a property for becoming a master. In Angelou (93), Angelou stopped waiting for Sheikhali after he was late for over two hours.

Positive attitude formation is another trait of Maya Angelou.  It entails the perspective with which things are viewed. According to Ellis, it includes visualizations of what is fit for a master student. These visualizations are based on strong affirmations regarding the academic life among other things. These attributes had been towards the end of the book but this edition placed them as components of the first steps. Another trait which is now considered as among the first steps in becoming a master student is replacement of attitudes. This is probably based on the tenet that flexibility is an important life skill. In addition, a students’ attitude be reprogrammed.

Angelou is considered a master student in Ellis’ terms for her exploration and practice of racial diversity. This is exemplified by her Ghanaian ancestry, American school life, South African Marriage and Egyptian settling (Although she later went back to America). According to Ellis, consciousness of cultural differences is a key attribute of becoming a master student. This is so because the globe is becoming increasingly diverse. There is therefore a need to harmoniously interact with other students from any racial background. In fact, Ellis suggested that masters should be able to learn about other cultures and ways of life. This shall a great deal expand their horizons.

As a master Angelou had discovered herself in line with Ellis ‘discovery wheel’. This is because she had multiple intelligences as exemplified by her wide scope of literary genres. Angelou may also be connoted as having been using her senses to learn and teach. These senses include seeing, hearing and moving. This system of learning has been referred by Ellis as the VAK system. It denotes visual auditory and kinesthetic learning. Becoming a master student therefore means making use of the VAK system as a way of learning; either holistically or sensually.

In the autobiography, Angelou is depicted as a very honest and sincere personality. She exhibits the trait described in the first chapter of Ellis’ book. In addition, Angelou was diverse in her approach towards success and excellence. This is described by her search for a higher paying job.

Bloom and Angelou (63), wrote that Maya Angelou held herself with dignity and respect despite the destructive forces of floods, killings and droughts evident during her childhood. In spite of all the childhood difficulties, it is reported that Maya Angelou combined well the consciousness of self and realities of politics in the Black South.

In the mid-1960’s she went back to Ghana to rediscovery her ancestry as her son studied at the University of Ghana. She is described to have discovered as new dimension of civil rights, slavery, friendship, love and motherhood. However, the Ghanaians did not welcome her. As a result, she resulted into play acting in which the satire of Africans versus African Americans was brought out. Her autobiography also includes her encounters in Germany.

In elucidating what was required to become master students, Ellis and Toft cited specificity of intention, criticality of thinking, clarity of goals within and after college, the vigor of action, strength of the desire, the uniqueness of style, ability to learn and centrality of planning in all activities.

In a collective sense, the works of Maya Angelou include not only autobiographies but also plays, poetry, screen plays and films. This is in line what Ellis described of a master student: Multiple intelligences. According to Ellis, a master student should have discovered their abilities. After reading her autobiography, it was evident that Angelou had fully discovered herself and was convinced that applied literary concepts were her major passion.

My Personal Experience

When I read the traits evident in the autobiography, I discovered that indeed, ideas are like tools. I have personally been helped by the way Angelou approached life. The traits’ description has made me master life and learning skills. When I was in my first year in University, I used to be very poor in communication of my feelings and interaction with others outside the classroom. Moreover, since I read the autobiography, I have improved in my interpersonal communication and interaction. As a result, I requested my guardian to buy a copy of the book for the home library.

My traits compared to those of Angelou are a bit different. By considering Maya Angelou’s actions in Ghana in union with Martin Luther King’s philosophies, she may be described as an activist. I do not have such a trait though I have a critical mind. I however prefer to get a solution with the people that I can influence. In this case however, Angelou could have been justified to use such means. We share the traits of motivation, anti-racism and determination. However, Angelou was very pursuant of work instead of having established her own system in which as she fulfilled her literary ends, she earned something.

Lessons Learned about the Writer

The reasons for my choice of the text were mainly because of the way the writer approached the subject. Maya Angelou was a well rounded literary creator. The writer uses value-based approaches to help students discover and master themselves. The writer could also be described as a social activist. This is evident in her easy-to-read all-inclusive personal narrative. Angelou is undoubtedly a renowned writer and activist.


 Dave Ellis has done great work in explaining the traits of a master student. There are also other scholars who have written about the subject; whose resources have been useful not only in outlining the actual traits but also the wider topic of life skills. The discussion outlined these traits, expounded on them, put them in the context of my personal campus experience and also gave explanations why the text was chose. It was explained that the text was chosen on the basis of the author’s academic and personality ability. Some traits of a master student include truthfulness, motivation, knowledge of self, and mastery of technology and clarity of goals. In addition, the discussion focused on the author’s perspective; the chief driver of the choice of the text. Above all, the traits were put into practical experience of my early university life before I had mastered the skills of life and learning. Indeed, Chapter 1 of Ellis’ text is an important piece not only in the orientation of new students but also in educational a social work practice.

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