Dear Teacher Dealing with the Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

Thank you for your help, heart, and hope.

Dear Teacher Dealing With the Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

On August 13th, 2004, the first week of my senior year of high school, Hurricane Charley barreled into the Gulf of Mexico, made a 90° turn, and proceeded to ravage my hometown. So watching the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey really takes me back to living through it myself.

Charley claimed 15 lives, caused 16 billion dollars in damage, and destroyed my home as well as high school. Needless to say, tensions were high and there was a common sentiment that the year would be a waste. But our teachers had other ideas.

As a teacher now myself, I think back to that turbulent year through a different lens, and recognize some of the work teachers did to make school not only meaningful and engaging, but extraordinary. Now, as we look at the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, I have no doubt that teachers in Houston and beyond are doing the same things.

Thank you for being flexible.

I remember back to my senior year, and pretty much every student and teacher had a completely different classroom and supplies. There would have been ample opportunities to complain and bemoan the changes, but I do not remember a single instance where a teacher complained in front of students. Instead they made the space work.

I know you will be facing many of these challenges in the months ahead. It won’t be easy. But like all teachers, you’ll find a way to make it work.

Thank you for being creative.

The English teachers created their own reading nooks; the science teachers used whatever was available in labs; math teachers taught from different textbooks. There was nothing easy about these changes, but the teachers modeled for their students how to adapt.

My experience from more than a decade ago is no different than what’s happening today. This is what we as teachers do. We make learning fun, creative, and engaging for students … no matter the circumstance.

Thank you for teaching around the clock.

After nearly a month, they finally turned the power back on in my family’s FEMA trailer, and we were able to return to school. However, since our schooled was razed by the storm, we had to attend school in the afternoon and evening at the rival high school on the other side of town. This meant our rivals (fierce rivals) had to go to school in the morning starting at 5:30 am. On top of this, the town had serious looting, price gouging, curfews, and armed National Guard soldiers stationed at every major intersection.

In the months ahead, I’m sure you’re going to find yourself being an educator 24/7. It will probably be one of your most challenging years ever, but I know you’ll give students what they need and whenever they need it. 

Thank you for uplifting spirits.

I remember one day when I came into school, the windows to one of our classrooms was smashed and my teacher’s supplies were all over the room. A student from the rival school had committed the crime, and he had taken his anger out on us. My friends and I were boiling with anger, and we wanted revenge. But our teacher, with timely wisdom, stepped in and said, “Let’s just see this problem as an opportunity. Let’s show them that we will not be broken.”

Now I know the months ahead are not going to be easy, and every single educator is going to have their limits tested. However, you will still be there to lift the spirits of your students every single day. 

Thank you for not making excuses.

There was a constant temptation that year to make excuses. “I can’t do my homework because I was living in a government-funded, two room trailer with six other people.” “The football players can’t practice because their field and gear was destroyed.” “I am too tired to work by sixth hour because it is 6:30 at night.”

These excuses were valid and I think every student in our school had them. But the teachers were not having any of it. The standards and expectations were not lowered a trace for students that year. We were taught that there is no excuse to not work hard and persevere through adversity. Due dates were still kept, detentions still given out, tests still administered, and the football team even practiced at a local farm for a while until their practice field was restored. 

As the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey unfolds and the needs grow, I know the teachers will move forward and make magic happen when it comes to working hard, learning, and rebuilding.

Thank you for giving us all hope.

My senior year was not what I expected it to be. It was a year of toil, discomfort, confusion, and chaos. But it was also a year of endurance, patience, resilience, and hope. Looking back, I do not think I could have described it that way without my teachers. And as a teacher now myself, I see the value of having an uplifting spirit with my students. And I know the power of perseverance, and that my students have the ability to overcome adversity, no matter what obstacle is in their way.

Even a hurricane.

 

Posted by Trevor Muir

Trevor is the author of The Epic Classroom: How to Boost Engagement, Make Learning Memorable, and Transform Lives. He is a professor, speaker, and runs the Facebook page, The Epic Classroom. He believes life should not be boring; school either.

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