Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mercury Rising

Boiling hot outside today. From my colleague's phone:

Boiling hot inside. Here's a snap of the thermometer in my classroom from another colleague's phone:
This wasn't just the hottest day on campus since ever. It was the day of a lockdown at the local high school.

As I drove to school, I saw at least three police cars parked along the canyon adjacent to the high school. Oh Lord, I prayed, please don't let any of our kids be involved in anything awful...

(...and they weren't. A couple of thieves tried to steal some copper wiring and fled to the canyon.)

When I pulled into my school, about seven yellow school buses had pulled over in front. Uh oh.

Kids could roast on the buses given the forecast, but the situation was so unpredictable. As the first teacher on campus I called the principal who came dashing in, grabbing the walkies and fielding emergency calls. We and another teacher boarded each bus, letting the students know they'd be our guests for a while, walking them to the auditorium.

We had to make sure the kids had food; many get their breakfast from their school. We had to take attendance for some 300 students and get release forms and deal with panicky parents. The kids had to be cooperative and patient in the emotional uncertainty, and here's the thing: they were amazing. One reed-thin Latino man-child slid onto the piano bench and began playing softly and slowly; one group of students sat cross-legged and experimented with makeup; another group played elementary playground hand slapping games. (!) I had to leave them to teach my regular students and by the time I left, an hour after their arrival, I knew they'd continue to be wonderful.

And then on to my actual students, full of fear and rumor. After good discussions about safety and why we do things the way we do, after answering their questions with what little I knew, we went on to the day's tasks. The heat came in like the hordes of Mordor, hot and merciless and overwhelming, and just like that, we had a different challenge: to carry on despite the physical burden of airless heat. The mercury jumped but the kids were champs. I even taught them our colonial region songs, and we gamely sang them.

Whatever may be wrong with public schools, it certainly is not the kids. I have always respected them, and today my respect deepened. I am proud of our staff--the way we circled the wagons, stepping up, solving problems, filling gaps, unasked and undirected--I am proud of the way our schools worked together in an emergency. And I am proud of the students who were bused in from far away, showing maturity and grace under pressure, and of the neighborhood kids who soldiered on, rising above heat exhaustion.

(If I hear anyone criticizing public school teachers this week as being lazy or incompetent or selfish...)

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow. I heard about what happened at the high school but I had no idea your school rallied together to help as well, that is really inspiring and heart warming to read. I'm glad everything was alright, especially unfortunate it had to happen in this heat.

    Soldier on, you can make it through the heat wave!