Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Coping in a Time of Tragedy

Recently, storms ravaged the United States with heavy rains causing flooding and many, many tornadoes. We know that not only have people lost their homes and places of employment but children also lost their schools and libraries. It’s been wonderful to see how groups have already started recovery efforts. You can read about some in this post in the NCTE Connected Community. The following resources from NCTE can help adults and children alike cope with this tragedy as well as others.

After 9/11, NCTE updated their Position Statement, a Resolution on Teaching in a Time of Crisis, (G) originally from 1985. This statement noted the "growing complexity of world problems," including "nuclear weapons, terrorism, diseases, [and] social dislocations," that produces "anxiety and apathy in students-reactions which teachers have a responsibility to combat."

The Language Arts article, “’Wen the Flood Km We Had to Lv’: Children’s Understandings of Disaster” (E) reiterates that reflection can support both teachers and students in the aftermath of a disaster. Time is needed for children to reflect on their experiences and for teachers to reflect collectively on their students’ art and writing.

Difficult Days and Difficult Texts” (M-S) from Voices from the Middle suggests that all teaching in literature classes is in some ways preparation for events such as September 11th. The author argues that teachers teach students to read events such as these by showing them how to move from reaction to reflection, and from image to empathy; and to write so that they capture their thinking, reexamine it, and present it to others. View more from the themed issue, “Tributes: From Authors, By Students, To Books”.

After the death of a teacher at their school, students had written for hours upon hours. Their teacher worked to create a lesson that would add variety and spice, a piece that wouldn’t be saturated with the death of their teacher. I wanted them to see that life does move on, even when we lose someone we love. This assignment is shared in the English Journal article “Writing through a Tragedy” (M-S).

Floating Foundations: Kairos, Community, and a Composition Program in Post-Katrina New Orleans” (C) from College English describes experiences of teachers and instructors who reconstructed their New Orleans-based university composition program in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. They emphasize how the concept of floating foundations helps account for changes in their students’ interests, and they suggest that this idea is applicable to the work of writing instructors in general.

At the 2008 Annual Convention of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), a full-day workshop was offered on “Basic Writing after the Storm”. Teachers affiliated with the Greater New Orleans Writing Project (GNOWP) demonstrated how the reality of teaching Basic Writing has changed in their post-Katrina classrooms, and how “the new reality for teachers and students has centered on dealing with personal and professional trauma, fractured and fragmented schools, and a profoundly changed physical and emotional landscape.” This article some details about that presentation.

How have you and your students dealt with the tragedies of late? Or what recovery efforts can you share? Please let us know your thoughts.