The Catalyst

A Writing Teacher Writes (plus some writing prompts and recipes)

What I Learned at School Today November 11, 2012

Filed under: Teaching,Videos,Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 11:54 pm

For this prompt, I played, “I’m Going to a Town,” by Rufus Wainwright. The video is below, and I love Rufus, but the visuals are out there a bit. I suggest listening to it without the visual the first time around. See what you write in response to the lyrics or the mood of the song, without the visual distraction.

What I wrote follows.



Three of my students are writing about LGBT issues for their Human Rights essay, and I think two of them are straight, but who knows? They probably don’t even know yet.

For those who need a reminder, LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender—the acronym I belong to—and don’t think it hasn’t crossed my mind that they’re writing to me directly, hoping to get a good grade. (Once, when I asked a student to consider his audience,  he said, “My audience is you, right?” And I said, “I don’t want to be your sole audience member.”)

Sometimes it’s hard to get them to think beyond what’s right in front of them.

Even so, nobody writes about LGBT issues if they’re a homophobe, and that’s what gives me hope: these kids give a shit. One student was inspired to do research because he hated seeing Reverend Phelps’ church assembling at public events carrying signs that read, “God hates fags.”

“That just makes me so fucking mad,” Jason said at our first draft meeting.

We talked about freedom of speech, and hate speech and epithets, and using God as an excuse for hatred. Then Jason pulled the Giants cap down tightly on his head and said, “I know where I need to go with this essay.”

Erica is writing about denying same sex couples the right to marry. “Degrading the sanctity of marriage?” she gawks at one of her sources. “Give me a break! With 60% of all marriages ending in divorce? Where’s the sanctity in that?”

And then there’s Laura, an openly bisexual woman in her early 20’s. “Did you know Wyoming still hasn’t included sexual identity in its hate crime law?” she asks me. “It’s disgusting.”

I knew, but I was hoping her research would inform me that something had changed since my last student ally wrote about that state, a state known internationally for the atrocious murder of Matthew Shepard.

Then she adds, “Oh, by the way, here’s that post-feminist manifesto I told you about.” She pulls out a fat paperback with the c-word printed on the cover in the center of a Gerber daisy. “I think you’re going to love that book. Keep it as long as you want,” she says.

What are they up to in that class, you must be thinking. Hetero guys writing about homophobia, and young women offering their teacher radical books that reclaim the derogatory word for female genitalia? Arguing for justice in an unjust world? They’re teaching me, of course.

It’s a tough and terrible world out there in so many ways, but they remind me that it’s also a very different—and much more accepting—world than the one I grew up in; so much has changed.  If you listen to the news too often, you might not believe that. But because of these students, I know it’s true.

And once again, I’m thankful.


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