Sarah DeBacher | October 21, 2014
Our first Write@UNO workshop of the year was a huge success! We hosted fifteen young writers from schools around New Orleans for a day of tutoring and craft classes. Andy Young hosted our poetry class, in which students were asked to write praise poems in the style of Kevin Young’s “Ode to the Hotel Near Read More
Sarah DeBacher | October 21, 2013
This entry comes to us from GNOWP allstar Ari Zeiger. Ari attended the Summer Institute in 2012, co-facilitated it in 2013, and teaches writing (brilliantly!) at Delgado Community College. ### In this short video, Sir Ken Robinson discourses on a range of subjects (from creativity to education to imagination). At last count, I’ve watched the Read More
Sarah DeBacher | May 21, 2013
“Writing is both a challenge and an extreme exigency—that is, it is both called forth by and constitutes the trauma. But writing both exceeds and is inadequate to the task; it is both unavoidable and impossible.”— Peter and Maureen Daly Goggin, Trauma and the Teaching of Writing (2005).
In my attic there is box containing hundreds of magnets I collected from curb-side refrigerators after Hurricane Katrina. I’d been fortunate enough to have a home to return to, but when I was allowed to return to New Orleans in October of 2005, the city was virtually unrecognizable. The visual landscape was so disrupted, so disruptive, that it made its way into horrifying underwater nightmares I couldn’t shake. Even when I dreamt lucidly, I was unable to wake myself, my subconscious seemingly aware that the waking-world would provide no comfort. What on earth was this? How on earth could this have happened? I spent my days in a kind of stupor, and yet the collection of refrigerator magnets and documentation of their sites gave me a kind of purpose. I had no idea what I would do with the magnets. I still don’t. I just needed to do something.
School began. I got busy with the work of teaching—an immense comfort and immense burden, both. My classes took place online, but internet connectivity was spotty, at best. Regular power outages plunged us into darkness and we shuffled out onto stoops to visit with others who’d returned, to share stories about how we’d “made out in the storm.”
My students had it much worse than I did. Before that semester began, I’d grown accustomed to the usual range of excuses for late work: dead grandmothers (so many dead grandmothers!), flat tires, printers without ink, etc. But this semester the excuses punched me in the gut. “I lost my job, my home, everything. Can I please have an extension on Essay 2?” Yes. Yes! I remember feeling like my every teacherly choice that semester was Really Effing Important. What would I assign? How could I respond ethically and empathetically to students whose lives had been—like mine—upended entirely? (I wrote about the experience of teaching after Hurricane Katrina in an article that appeared in Reflections in 2007.)
Today I’ve been thinking about the texts I produced in the immediate aftermath of Katrina (although I’ve learned that a more accurate way of putting it is “in the aftermath of the failure of the federal levees.) I’ve been thinking about that box of magnets and the blogging I did and the writing I assigned, and the emails I sent, and how my words helped me heal but also plunged me right back into the depths of despair, too.