A week ago, I was in my classroom giving my 5th graders time to work on their persuasive essays. They had three choices to write about: 1.) why students need or don't need homework, 2.) why students need more than 15 minutes of recess, 3.) why it might be a good idea to have a four-day school week. I told them they would have more time to work on them, but to get their thoughts down and begin a rough draft. I hoped that the choices would be pertinent to them and that they could persuade someone to make a change.
The following day, my school world, and everything in it, collapsed along with the roof of my little country school. The day after giving my students this writing prompt, we had about 15 inches of snow and, no surprise, another snow day. While I was taking this reprieve from school to work on report cards, I got a call from a fellow teacher that the roof in the library had caved in. I thought that perhaps a little water was leaking from the ceiling and that it would be a nuisance, nothing to worry about. My teacher friend called back within 10 minutes and asked if I wanted to take a ride over to see the damage. Why not? I thought. It would be a nice break from report cards. When we got to school, it was immediately apparent that this was much more than a nuisance. This was a disaster!
In the past week, I've been to the school twice to take as much as I can in a short period of time. The first time, it was about five minutes. The second time, about 10 minutes. An engineer had to escort each teacher into their classroom for safety precautions. Needless to say, it was a nerve wracking experience. Did I take what I need? Am I taking everything the students will need?
When I begin a new phase at the Middle School tomorrow (the 4th and 5th graders have been moved to the regional Middle School) my first priority will be to hug my students and help them feel safe. This is what I need right now so I'm sure it's what they need, as well. We will write about our feelings about what has happened and how this has changed us. Perhaps in the days ahead, we will come up with a new writing prompt, one that will be more pertinent to what the students are going through right now. Or, perhaps, I will keep the ones we have as they might just be the things the students are thinking about, or want to think about. Perhaps we don't want to think about what has happened for too long, perhaps we want to get back to our safe routine. A new routine it will be, but as the word defines it, a routine will be just what we need.