Today is Sunday, September 3rd, the day before Labor Day, what should have been the weekend between the first and second week of school. I should be spending my afternoon looking through student data sheets to get an idea of what my students like to read, what their hobbies are, and what sports they play. I should be finalizing my lesson plans for the four-day week to come, lesson plans that should be digging deep into the heart of the fiction-centered first grading cycle curriculum.
But none of that is the case.
Instead, Hurricane Harvey happened.
I have not yet met my 2017-2018 students. School didn’t start last week. School won’t start this week. If all goes according to plan, I will finally meet my students next Monday, the 11th. I don’t know them yet, but they are already in my heart. The local newspaper reports that Hurricane Harvey has deeply affected more than 5,000 students in the district. 5,000 students whose homes are damaged, if not gone.
Our district actually got off relatively lucky. Our campuses didn’t sustain any major damage. None of our students will need to be relocated to other campuses in the district, as is happening in so many schools around us. And I am grateful for that.
None of our students are on the still-growing list of lives lost in the storm. But I’m only just starting in this district this year. The last three years, I worked in a different district, one that was hit much harder by Harvey. One of my former students is on that list. One sweet girl, who brought me a box of Shipley’s donuts on the last day of school as an apology for always being late to my first period preAP English I class. She wrote “Please “do-nut” mark me tardy!” in pen across the top of the box and signed it with her name and a heart. She didn’t deserve to have her life cut so short by this horrible storm.
Overwhelming trauma will be felt throughout the community for weeks, months, years to come. Rebuilding will not be easy and it will not be fast. It will be years before southeast Texas is the same again.
But I can’t think about years from now. In a week, my classroom will be filled with 8th graders. 8th graders who would normally enter my classroom maybe concerned about what supplies they need or how much homework I’ll give, but will now be entering wondering about where they’ll live or where their friends will live. Even students spared from losing everything will have friends and family deeply affected by this storm.
Normally my first day of school I will tell them my strict expectations about assigned seats and cell phones. I tell them about growing up in Ohio where it snows. I tell them about all of the animals I have.
This first day of school will be different. And I don’t know what to tell them.