It is very hard for most teachers in the United States to imagine not starting school on time, for any reason.
Hurricane Harvey had other plans for schools in the coastal areas of South Texas from Corpus Christi to Houston to Louisiana. I live in Houston.
Many schools were already open, or were prepared to open, on Monday, August 29. Harvey delivered 5 days of rainfall topping 50 inches. Leaving muddy waters swirling through entire communities, inundating neighborhoods, swamping drains, homes, hospitals and beloved schools...water over everything.
Tornado and hurricane force winds destroyed what the rushing, rising waters had not yet ruined. With levees and retention areas overloaded, hundreds of thousands are now without homes, without electricity and almost without hope.
As educators, we know that schools offer the very safest places for students to spend their days. Schools keep children safe from the strife of their neighborhoods, the dangers of the streets, the anger between neighbors, and sadly, sometimes, from family members.
I have spent hours watching horrifying scenes of Harvey’s overpowering material devastation, but I was heartsick and appalled by the ongoing list of school closings due to this horrible storm. Our students’ haven is supposed to be full of welcoming, loving teachers with warm hugs and encouraging smiles, cafeterias offering balanced hot breakfasts and lunches, comforting counselors and nurses who know how to meet heart, head and health needs. Even the symbolic, jostling yellow school buses that safely transport those students to school and home again...NONE of them will be there!
Countless schools, already brightly decorated by teachers over the past weeks, were stocked with new materials, with desks, tables and chairs labeled for each excited student.
The lockers freshly scrubbed, floors gleaming with new wax, counters stacked with folders, binders and school books... all were ready for that first exciting day of contained chaos.
Now nearly all the schools are closed, most flooded, and many destroyed beyond use. For so many all that remains is the shock of the chaos in their own lives.
In times of devastation like this, as an art teacher, it seems that thinking about creativity has no place at all. However, solely STEM thinkers will not solve the problems facing these areas.
The engineering of the levees and reservoirs have already failed. The mathematical calculation of the billions of gallons of water that have flooded the area, although staggering, is really of little help. The science behind the rapid formation of Harvey doesn’t put dry clothes on people’s backs or food in their stomachs or lights on overhead.
Those who will solve the problems will be inventive, creative thinkers who can see multiple uses for common objects, who can imagine unusual ways to do common things, and who will not let 1000 failures make them a failure
We need the artists, the creators, the thinkers, the makers, the ‘out-of-the-boxers’ and the doers, for they shall eventually open the schools. Only then can boys’ and girls’ lives return to some sort of normalcy.