I am dealing with high school students. Most can talk about these things. Now imagine elementary students and the greater need to address emotional issues - and emotional issues from the quake were not unknown among my students. Some needed time to talk about what they had experienced.
As to the hurricane? Even with the extra day I am going to have students arriving at school who will not have been able to do their homework. Realistically, many would have been leaving their homework until Sunday, by which time they would have lost power, not knowing when it would come back on. There was one part of the county in which I teach which received 11 inches of rain, and even in the immediate areas from which I draw most of my students 6" seems to be the norm. Some would have been spending time helping their families cope. Some will have had to relocate.
The hurricane also presents a teachable moment. What were the roles of various levels of government in addressing both the approaching storm and its immediate results? what different did that make in people's lives? How does government fund the responses - the last particularly relevant in light of Republican insistence that any additional funding for the response be offset by cuts - thank you Eric Cantor, although I do not remember that for any previous hurricane response in my lifetime, under Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan or either Bush - and that includes storms of the intensity of Andrew and Camille (Category 5) as well as Katrina (officially a 3 when it hit New Orleans).
So I have to provide some notes for some of the material we would cover to create room for these discussions while at the same time keeping the class moving forward. While there is no state test in government this year, the AP exam is not going to have its date moved. Last year we effectively lost 9 days of instruction because of Snowmaggedon, 5 of which were made up at the end of the school year after all high stakes tests had been completed. It is not clear that either of the lost days will be made up - for this kind of natural disaster the state is usually inclined to forgive a couple of days. Still, for those teachers with high stakes state tests the material still will have to be covered before the date of those tests in May.
If anyone things teaching can be distilled to simply delivering canned lessons on a rigid schedule, the events of the first week should make clear how ridiculous that is. 6 districts near DC were closed in Maryland yesterday. So were some on the Eastern Shore. But those further West, including the state's largest Montgomery (next door to us) were not.
Oh, and by the way, our system started a week earlier than Montgomery, and two weeks earlier than a few other districts. Apples and oranges on the time to prepare for state tests, anyone? Yes, the state COULD mandate a uniform starting day, but that would ignore the needs of the local community.
I don't mind the scrambling I was doing yesterday. I was also over the weekend reminded of the greater scrambling being done by the families of my students, as I continued to call them - I have about 20 I have not yet reached in any format, and those calls will be completed tonight. I heard about some of the experiences, I was asked about adjustments due to the conditions already experienced.
Teaching is somewhat like war. It is not that the students are enemy combatants, although in some schools teachers often experience the stress of combat. Rather, it is that once the engagement has begun, one cannot necessarily follow the detailed plans laid out in advance: rather, one has to adjust the reality before one. In the case of the classroom, that is the reality of the students and what they know and what they have experienced. That is as much the context of teaching as is the unexpectedness and the fog of war.
Just a few thoughts as I am about to return to school after an unplanned 3 day weekend.