Monday, August 3, 2009

New Orleans trip!!

Sorry for the delay in posting...but, we were very busy during our stay in New Orleans!

Day One: Good to jump in after the long day of travel...anticipation and energy are in the air! Unpacking new materials, sorting, organizing, navigating through a "sea" of books! The science lab was "ground zero" for our day's work...we couldn't help but stop and thumb through our favorite books, mine was Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree"! We had lunch at Cafe Reconcile which not only provided sustenance, but also a window into the training of those who were being helped to prepare for a brighter and better future. The food was classic New Orleans style; red beans, rice and sausage, jambalaya, favorite that day was macaroni which was elevated to new culinary heights!!
At the end of the day, we met with Jonathan and the teachers with whom we would partner for the rest of the week.

Long walk back to the cable car in oppressive humidity, but the good news is that this wasn't a beauty show and no one cared about the frizz factor...our priorities were straight and clear. Loved being with my daughter, Emily, (college bound in three weeks!), and her dear friend, Hayley, one of the loveliest and hardest working 18 year old girls I've ever met!!!!! We napped everyday upon returning to the hotel, showered, and enjoyed a late dinner before turning in for the night.

Day Two: Everything looks more familiar; the streets, sign posts, cable car route to our work site.
As I unpack beautiful shiny new materials, I imagine little hands manipulating the tools that will take them to the next step in their learning!

My olfactory senses are working overtime; the smell of new and old books, construction paper, paint...remind me of the excitement I felt at the beginning of the school year. Do you remember how your new classroom looked when you first stepped in? The bulletin boards seduce you to wonder....what will the year be like, what will my new teacher be like? What will I learn?

Our group of thirteen is bonding despite our many differences; we are stratified agewise, culture wise, life experience wise. We work next to each other which reminds me of parallel play observed in children.

I worked along side Joan today with Kipp's full time art teacher!! Can't believe this school has the luxury of a person who encourages kids to explore their creativity every day!!! It is gratifying to know that those planning for the education of our young students appreciate that art is more than drawing a is a wholistic experience which involves your thoughts, feelings, fine motor application. The art teacher seems to realize she is very lucky to work in a system that respects creative self expression in children!

Day three: We are off to work with Rocky at the Happy Times preschool. I look forward to spending time with the children; observing them at play, watching them at rest, and working one on one with those that need a person to talk to. I met a 4 year old boy who wanted to draw pictures with me....we spent many hours lost in fantasy...his and mine :)! Our bonding was a slow process; he waited until he felt he could trust me a before opening up about issues within his family. His pictures contained great detail and insight, these were his intricate interpretations of what he was experiencing and observing at home every day. At the end of our time together, he shared a personal story about something that happened to him in his family, it was touching, profound, important. I turned over his "portfolio" to Rocky so that he could share some of his feelings and experiences with the aides in the school. I felt sad as I said goodbye to him...knowing that with more time we could have "gone further"....and that I might have been able to use my skills as a therapist to help him feel less hurt and angry.

As Rebecca took our picture together, I remembered the sound of his laughter as he looked at one of my crayon drawings! He exclaimed, " what's that, is that an animal person...or maybe a person monster? that is a funny body"!

My inability to so much as draw a round circle for a head was finally revealed,....he on the other hand was a splendid artist who had great imagination, as well as execution. He made a lovely picture for me that I said I would proudly display above my desk when I returned to my office.

Days four and five: I've spent the past two days sequestered in a back office creating math packets for the entire school year!

The irony of this was not lost on me; I have a learning disability that is math based! It was the unit on story problems that caused me the greatest anxiety...I realized how happy I am not to have to struggle with math concepts anymore....sometimes, it's really good to be a "grown up"!!!

Our NOLA cohort is becoming more cohesive by the day! We are kind of like one big dysfunctional family......we even joke about this! Thirteen women together for one week in NOLA should be the next reality show!!

For me personally, experiencing a week with my daughter, Emily, while working side by side to help other people, represented a peak life experience! I got a glimpse of her that I hadn't seen for awhile...her ability to laugh at herself, with others, and to see the levity in the most frustrating and outrageous of situations! She loved hanging out with Joan, Cindy, "Mother Nea", as they cut laminate for hours on end while singing showtunes! Emily, Hayley and I developed such a sense of fondness and affection for our group and it's fearless and peerless leaders!

Day Six: There is so much energy and life to this city despite being ravished by the overpowering force of Katrina.

RESILIENCE IS THE WORD THAT COMES TO MIND when I think of the people we've met; educators, civilians, beautiful and innocent children. I am aware of the extraordinary kindness I witness between strangers on the street; I wonder whether it is because of what they experienced together as a community of survivors. Collectively traumatized, they are rebuilding their city one brick at a time....and thankfully, one school at a time, KIPP Academy serves as a wonderful model of what can be done when we work together towards a common goal.

I want to thank Karen, Adrienne, Rebecca, (our leaders), Joan, Cindy, "mama Nea", Elizabeth, Kathleen, Renita, Denise, Hayley and Emily for a truly worthwhile experience....can't imagine a better "cast of characters"!


  1. What an eloquent description of our time in New Orleans. I very much enjoyed our time together last week, Randi!

  2. Hi, Randi.
    You certainly wrote from the heart and spoke for many of us!
    Are you in a madhouse of packing now?
    I enjoyed meeting and being with both of you and wish Emily every success!
    Mama Nea