Christopher Burton graduated from Douglass in May, 2005. He spent that summer the same way he had spent the two previous summers, working with Students at the Center in writing workshops, video productions, mentoring and teaching younger students in summer camps, and helping us train teachers and develop plans and projects for the next school year. He left New Orleans by train on the morning of Friday, August 26, 2005. Most of us had not received evacuation orders for Hurricane Katrina, which would eventually hit New Orleans early the morning of August 29. No, Chris was on his way to ...


For the next week or so we will feature student writings that explore their relationships with their parents. Such writings are an important part of our curriculum for a couple of reasons. First, such assignments allow students to follow our principle of starting with what they know. When students write about something they know well and care deeply about, it becomes easier to concentrate on some of the most important writing skills, such as paragraph divisions, introductions and conclusions, transitions, integration of quotes, and decisions about what parts to emphasize through detail and what parts to move quickly over through ...


We celebrated Toni Morrison’s birthday today. Students in our classes at both McMain and Douglass are reading Beloved. Last year our English III and creative writing classes at Douglass read The Bluest Eye. Both novels have scenes in which kisses are important. Last year our students decided to write about kisses that were turning points for them. So this year, those writings have become texts our students read alongside the Toni Morrison novels. Today we feature one of those writings by Vinessia Shelbia, a member of the first graduating class from Douglass after the hurricane. Douglass was the fifth ...


Many of our students are dealing with friends and family members who are serving out of the country in the U. S. military. Kanisha Daniels, a junior at Douglass High School, wrote this poem as part of her thinking about this international situation that hits close to home for so many of our students. Our students at both schools studied this poem, working within two SAC methods: 1) the whole approach of collective thinking and revision through classroom dialogue that we have been sharing in the last few blogs and 2) our teaching method of building lessons out of writings ...


Our course readings are a significant element of the collective discourse through which students write and think about their lives and revise not only their writings but also their thinking. Rodneka Shelbia, a Douglass student prior to Katrina who has worked on staff with Students at the Center and now attends college, wrote this essay in response to her reading of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” Plato’s Cave and My Freedom Rodneka Shelbia When I was 13 years old, I stumbled into a place with very little air and very little space. I was uncomfortable. I stumbled in ...


As always Marleesa bounded into her SAC English IV class at McMain Secondary School and pleaded to read her new essay to the class. She had interviewed her grandmother as part of our exploration of the intersection between family and civic life. She read an earlier draft of the essay featured in today’s entry. When Marleesa finished reading, she frowned and said she still wasn’t happy with it. Using our typical class interaction structure, she called on two classmates to give her feedback and then the class continued discussing her essay. The version she read did not have ...


For many families in New Orleans, Mardi Gras is about much more than having a good time or even using the holiday and its industry as leverage for changing laws and customs. For many of us Mardi Gras reminds us of generations of struggle and gratitude and the on-going need for such work today. In SAC, when we think about education and literacy in New Orleans, we encourage students, teachers, and schools to see our family histories as strengths, as tools and materials for building quality education. Some of this innovative work happened in New Orleans in extensive and important ...


Gabrielle Caine, author of today’s selection (second-to-last in this series of blogs) from The Long Ride is another of the resilient students we had the privilege of working with at Douglass after Katrina. Douglass was the fourth high school for Gabrielle when she joined us last year as an 11th grader. She comes from a long line of resilient New Orleanians who have struggled for basic human rights for generations and even when we’re having fun at carnival time. All on a Carnival Day Gabrielle Caine Carnival is one of my best days. I like the Zulu parade ...


Today’s excerpt from The Long Ride, Students at the Center’s collection of student writings on the history of civil rights and social justice struggles in New Orleans, continues the theme of teachers seeking quality education and social equality, often in open conflict with their school boards. One of our teaching goals—not just ours, of course, because the state curriculum guide lists a similar learning objective—is to encourage students to understand their present realities in the context of historical events. Teaching and learning and being parents and citizens in a state-takeover environment has presented many challenges and ...


The Students at the Center program started at McDonogh 35 High School, which is mentioned in today’s entry from The Long Ride. Brittany Thompson, who wrote the essay below in spring 2005, was entering her senior year at McDonogh 35 when Hurricane Katrina hit. McDonogh 35 is an interesting and important high school in a city in which public education has always had intriguing story lines. The school opened in 1917, offering for the first time in over 20 years a free, public, high school education for black youth in New Orleans. It has produced generations of public school ...


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  • Catherine: Today's entry is frightening. The contrast you present here is read more
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