Ceremonies with my community college students
Written by
Louise Nayer
May 2010
Written by
Louise Nayer
May 2010
Ceremonies I haven’t been blogging lately(what a great 21st century verb—blogging) because I’m in the throes of the last part of my semester as an English Professor at a community college—quite large classes and of course mounds of compositions to grade. I feel like a waitress in the rush time lately—every day marking, getting back papers—in-putting grades into the computer—keeping track of odds and ends—talking with students who had deaths, or illnesses and still are trying to stick it out—to move to the next level—to transfer to a four year institution despite challenges I never faced when I was their age. My parents paid for my college expenses and I sat with friends in The Rathskeller at the University of Wisconsin—either doing homework or “angsting” about boyfriends—the Vietnam War—the next concert--I had the luxury of time. But it is the ceremonies that amazed me at my Trauma and the Arts Class that were an ending to a very long day of teaching—the ceremonies that my students presented after reading Silko’s Ceremony. First we were fed by one student—and he made sure to have brightly colored plates and napkins and talked about a Danish film—where a drab personal and geographical landscape was suddenly lit up by color as food was introduced. Then one student, who had been in prison, told his story—candles framing the table where he sat—with regrets and hope. Another student who played a CD with “alpha waves” got the whole class to relax our bellies and our jaws—quite a feat for this particular class. We were all transported. Another student, who works with women choosing to have an abortion talked about the importance of ritual in helping women navigate the wide range of emotions that often come up around abortion. There were other “ceremonies”—each different—all about how we can connect better with each other and with ourselves. The book I co-authored, How to Bury a Goldfish—deals with a lot of these same issues—but seeing my students bravely walk up to the front of the room and infuse the rituals with their stories of loss and love—was profoundly moving. I admire each one of them and will never forget this night—the candles, the voices, the rounds of applause as each student stepped down—the food—and the bright colors of the napkins surrounding our special meal. I left with a bouquet of flowers—now ceremoniously brightening up my home.

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