At this special time of year, as we offer thanks for all our blessings, I would like to share a recent experience at my school. On November 13th, my best friend and fellow 2nd grade WBT teacher arrived at school at 6:30 am to discover her classroom had been destroyed by vandals over the Veterans Day holiday weekend. She was devastated by what she found!
To begin with, Robin’s room is a wealth of material accumulated and created by a 30+ year career in teaching young children. In the last three years, she has also transformed it into a model classroom for Whole Brain Teaching. Her students benefit from her amazing talents everyday!
At this time of year, our school collects food cans for the less fortunate to be put into baskets for Thanksgiving meals. Many of the recipients come from our own school population. Robin’s class had also been collecting money for the Student Council for evergreen wreaths to be laid on Veterans’ graves the first week in December. Her students had responded generously to both causes, even though it’s a sacrifice to do so.
When Robin entered her room that morning, she discovered that every inch from floor to ceiling had been covered by the contents of all those collected cans of food. In addition, vile words and pictures covered walls and ceiling tiles. Her computers were thrown about, along with the classroom projector she had recently purchased when the school funds did not allow for replacing her old one. Every cord to any machine had been cut and destroyed. Every student piece of posted work had also been destroyed by the food or from being ripped down. The classroom sink had been plugged and allowed to run for some time, evident from large pools of water still standing in the room. Every teacher gift mug she had received and set out for display had been smashed and shattered across desk tops and carpet. Even her own family pictures had been drawn on. After the police came to investigate and test for fingerprints, Robin was allowed to re-enter the room and learn that at some time during the vandalism, her personal collection of children’s books, over 800 books, had been urinated on and covered with food juices. The shock and hurt to Robin was about more than the value of these lost items, but about the memories of all her students through the years reading page by page to find out, “what happens next!”
When Robin’s students arrived for class about an hour after she found this, she went into teacher mode to shelter them from this vision. She was given an empty portable outfitted only in large 6th grade desks. We quickly put supplies together collected from other classrooms. She started her day with her normal, “Class!”, and was answered back with a hearty, “Yes!” Student engagement and learning were off and running despite the circumstances!
Lots of questions that day from students wondering why their friends in that class had changed rooms. When we explained in subtle terms that some very unkind people had ruined the classroom and books with the collected food, and yes, had taken the money collected for the Veterans, the looks of shock and dismay were heartfelt!
So now for the special part of this whole tragic story, I need to explain what happened the next two days before we left for Thanksgiving Break. If you have ever had the opportunity to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”, remember back to the ending when all the town’s residents showed up with gifts. That’s exactly what happened at our school! Students from across the school brought in bags of canned food, children’s books they had taken from their own shelves at home, and dollar bills for new Veteran wreaths. Word spread to schools across the district and book drives were initiated! Robin’s previous students that had moved on to middle and high school set up collections at their sites!
My very humble friend was overwhelmed by the immediate responses of caring and generosity shown to her and her class! She will not get back into her classroom for awhile, but when she does, she knows the love of this generous and caring community will surround her students and help bring some normalcy back to their young lives.
This weekend was the infamous Black Friday weekend of shopping, but all I could think of was the heartfelt generosity of an economically challenged population, who gave from their hearts to a very special teacher and her 30 very innocent children! Life is good!