While touring the path of the tornado, you just can’t believe what destruction it caused. Total buildings wiped out. Some trees left standing by themselves in the middle of an empty field, twisted and gnarled. The rebuilding is happening, but it is happening slowly. When you pass some of the new houses, in the back yards you see the storm shelters buried in the ground. It really makes you think how grateful you are for the things you have, and how it must have felt to lose everything and have to start from scratch. You have to admire the strength of not only the school, but also the entire community and how they have all come together as one.
Seeing what the district has done makes you think, how would I react? How would the districts within ESU7 react? Do the districts of ESU7 have a basic plan of what they would do? It doesn’t have to be a tornado that makes you in a rush to find school space for students. It could be a fire, a collapsed roof, or something else. Joplin had not planned for a natural disaster. They didn’t know how much work it would take to find learning spaces for a majority of their students in just 55 days. They did this in a community of 50,000. What about some districts in not only ESU7 but also the state that have only 1000 people in the town? Where will they find the space for a school if the school is completely wiped out? What type of plan will that district have? In a way it is time to be proactive rather than reactive. Planning for what ifs is not just an administrator’s responsibility, but teachers, school board, community, and states.
This whole trip really made me think about what I am doing to inspire change. It shouldn’t take a natural storm or disaster to bring change in our schools. What kind of metaphorical “storm” can we create in our communities and state? I know we put kids first, but how far in first do we put our kids? Are they first by a little, or by a long way? In Joplin, their students are first by a LONG way. I know that what I am teaching and showing teachers in workshops can go a long way to helping kids. However, I am also thinking about what kind of “storm” can I create to help with change at and in ESU7 and the state.
I can’t wait to hopefully have the chance to return to Joplin in about three years to see just how far they have come and their new buildings. I am also interesting in seeing how the technology has transformed the learning of the students 4-5 years down the road. Is there improvement in student learning? That is the real question, and one that may take 4-5 years or more to answer. With so much change for students, what effect does that have on student achievement?