On January 28, I was one of the thousands of Alabamians stranded at school overnight with students, parents, faculty members, and general citizens during the winter storm. While uncomfortable and inconvenient, I was thankful that my family was never in any danger. My husband made it home safely just as the roads were becoming impassable and my children were stuck with me at school. After the ordeal, I mainly felt exhausted, but also humbled and proud to be part of the noble education profession.
It has been said, “Everyday starts with expectation, but ends with experience. Learn whatever life teaches you.” I definitely learned many things from the crazy “dusting” experience. Here are the top ten.
No one can accurately predict Alabama weather, even James Spann. Being angry with meteorologists, school administrators, or community leaders does not improve the current situation. You can only do the best with the hand that you are dealt. Live, learn, and move on.
2. Be prepared.
We should all adhere to the Boy Scout motto. Schools especially need to be ready for emergency situations. Teachers and administrators are seasoned writers of action plans, but we must have the supplies to follow through with those procedures. This is also true for individuals. Do you have an emergency kit in your car?
3. Every minute matters.
As Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” In the chaos of dismissal, some students were able to make it home, while others that left a few minutes later had to return to school due to impassable roads. Make the most of each moment and take opportunities as they come.
4. Music saves.
On the second day of our extended school stay, one of the nation’s most recognized family entertainers, Roger Day, performed via Skype for our students. It was great fun for the children, who sang and danced along with his well-known songs, and a much-welcomed respite for the teachers, who were wearied from a night of restless sleep. Music truly saved the day.
Aesop wrote, “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” In addition to the impromptu Skype concert with Roger Day, our school was the recipient of many compassionate deeds. Nearby families brought blankets, pillows, cold weather clothing, cookies, and coffee for warmth and comfort. Strangers on ATVs and in 4WD vehicles transported many of our parents to school and our students to their homes. Kind acts also came from colleagues in the form of toothbrushes, Diet Mountain Dew, and phone chargers. Faculty and staff went beyond their prescribed duties by scraping and sanding the road leading to the school and doing whatever needed to be done. It’s the small things that mean so much.
6. Meaningful conversations are essential.
I thought I knew my colleagues, but I surely had no idea what actually drove their character. Spending nearly two days with the same people requires you to delve into their likes and dislikes and what pushes them over the edge. This experience bonded us together as a faculty, because we now understand what makes us individuals. It is worth the time to really listen to what people are saying.
During the storm, our primary concern was taking care of our students. We wanted them to be safe, comfortable, and loved. Those were the least of the students’ worries. They were having too much fun on their overnight adventure at school. As parents were arriving to retrieve their children, many students were asking why they had to leave and if their parents could come back later. In the words of Bob Basso, “If it’s not fun, you’re not doing it right.” I hope that means that we were doing it right.
8. School can be scary.
Schools can be a little creepy during the day. At night, they are even more so. As my eyes were opening and closing, I saw shadows moving and heard claws scratching. The students’ sleeping habits added to the mystery. We had sleepwalkers and throw up. Some of our bilingual students were talking in their sleep in their native languages. The snorting, laughing, and sneezing added to the menacing symphony of sounds. My imagination was running wild. I’m glad I had lots of company!
9. Try new things.
I usually bring my lunch to school, so I’m not accustomed to eating the typical school cafeteria food. On our overnight stay, our cafeteria staff prepared Crispitos. Why have I not tried them before?!? The chicken and chili filled tortillas were one of the highlights of the experience. I must remember the words of Mark Twain, “Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.”
10. I really love my job.
Sometimes it takes a disaster to encourage gratitude. Through this experience, I was thankful for the safety of my family and the love that we share, but also for my school family and the opportunity to share my passion for music with them. William Arthur Ward said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” My gratefulness through this experience will inspire greatness in things to come. I am sure.