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Hurricane Sandy Shows Teachers to Be a Special Breed

Westport teacher John Horrigan had six trees come down on his property, including one on the roof of his house, but he’s focusing on what his  school community needs to do to move on.

Teachers are education professionals. They’re also caring individuals whose concern for their students and communities seems like a 24/7 job. Add to that mindset a disaster like Hurricane Sandy, and teachers’ concern is at one of the highest levels ever.

Take Bridgeport teacher Samantha Rosenberg who says, “It’s in our nature to think of the children first, even if we’re confronting the same power loss, flooding and damage.”

Rosenberg continues, “All I can think about are my students and whether they are safe and sound.  Had my colleagues and I been told earlier in the week that it would take this long to get power fully back in the city, we could have found ways to help. For example, I would have gone to help out in the shelters and make sure our students and their families were okay.”

Westport teacher John Horrigan had a tree land on his house during the storm, along with five others that landed in his yard. His focus, however, is on the larger community. “For people without financial resources or access to transportation, it’s very hard,” he says.

Horrigan adds that the stress that storms bring is especially hard on youngsters. Some of his town’s students live close to the beach where homes experienced major property damage and flooding. “It’s very tough on the kids,” he says.

One of the basic tenets of school communities is: We must look out for one another. Horrigan is doing his best to do that; he’s going  to a local college to access the Internet to reach out to his community— those who are lucky enough to have a charged cell phone or working Internet service.

Retired Branford teacher Mary Ellen Grantland  is quick to point out that her home’s damage “is nothing compared to what some others are going through.”  Just like last year during Tropical Storm Irene, Grantland’s house has flooded. Grantland has lived in Branford for 40 years however, and isn’t ready to consider moving. Her commitment to her former students and her shoreline community will remain for years to come.

With Connecticut utilities reporting that the state should have full power back by next week, teachers’ attention is more and more focused on how to best move on. What are your concerns about having lost instructional time with students, since school was closed due to the storm? Is there some action your school district should take to support you and your students?

Should teachers ease back into their instructional routine, taking time to listen to youngsters’ concerns?  Once you’re back in school, what will you do to enable students to talk about their storm experiences and then refocus them on the academic work at hand?  How will you use youngsters’ recent experiences as potential teachable moments?

Stonington teacher Michael Freeman says it’s hard for teachers to plan around a huge interruption like Sandy. But he adds that the plain fact is that students are expected to learn more and at a faster pace than ever before in our history. Against that backdrop, he urged his students last week before the storm to do as much studying during the bad weather as possible. He promised them: “There will be a test when you return.”

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