04 November 2012

Normalcy

I am an educator in NJ.  If haven't been watching the news, NJ and NYC were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy exactly one week ago.  The district I teach in is right on the shore (just north of Seaside Heights where many of the pictures of the destroyed boardwalk are from) and my students are going on 7 days without power.  Many were evacuated and are living with relatives in other parts of the state or country.  Many stayed and currently are either running on generator power, living in shelters or have no electricity at all.  Now they are predicting a Nor'Easter to hit on Wednesday with sub-freezing temperatures and possible flooding.  Luckily, no snow is predicted for our area.

In NJ, we have to complete 180 school days for it to count for a year.  We schedule 183 to account for 3 possible "snow days."  My district has been closed for 5 days and is not scheduled to reopen until the 13th which would give us 7 days missing (there were vacation days already in these weeks because of the NJEA Convention).  So, IF the schools have power again and are repaired, the students will have been off for a over 2 weeks.

http://goo.gl/s9Kca
Some of my Facebook friends are saying that if a school can't open then the students should just be allowed to go to whatever district they can to get back "normalcy" to their lives.  Or, if the school can bring in trailers then they should just run classes in them.  Here's my problem:

When did going to school become what "normal" kids do?

I think what people are trying to say is go back to a routine because kids function better on a routine than without.  Schools provide that (sometimes) safe environment to escape to because what happens in a school day is predictable.  But let's create 2 scenarios that buck this notion:

1.  Samantha's lives near the shore and her home was badly damaged during the hurricane.  Luckily, her family evacuated to her grandmother's house, which is 1 hour away in another part of the state.  The district her grandmother lives in has decided to allow Samantha to take classes there until she can return home.  The problem is, none of Samantha's classes match the district she is now living in because they use a very different schedule and teaching model.  Samantha is placed in classes well below her ability, or in several cases, needs to enroll in classes she has never taken before and catch up on all the work she missed in the first 2 months of the year.  Three months of being at her grandmother's, her house is ready and Samantha returns to her home school, but is now extremely behind in every class, causing her grades to drop.

2.  Riley's school was able to obtain trailers while they repair the building so classes are in session.  Unfortunately they have half the number of classrooms they had before so his class has doubled in size even though the classroom is smaller.  His house, on the other hand, still has no power and he must do all of his school work by candle or lamp light.  His family eats out every night so they can have hot food, but return to a dark home.  Because there is no electricity, there is no heat so he also shares his bed with his two younger siblings.

Where's the normalcy?  Are these extremes?  Absolutely.  Are they happening right now or going to happen starting this week when schools resume?  Yes.

I understand that your kids have needs that are met only during the school day, but please find a way to make that happen at home.  My son is in Kindergarten and to keep him active we gave him assignments to do which he will show his teacher on Wednesday when classes start again.  He is even going to volunteer with me to help kids like Samantha and Riley so he can better understand what they are going through.  We need to provide structure in the home first and let school be school.  

We rely so heavily on school to provide "normalcy" for our kids, no wonder teachers are so frustrated in September.  The kids have been "abnormal" for 104 days while on summer vacation.