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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Teaching About Citizenship: Helping Hurricane Sandy Victims

By Peter DeWitt — November 13, 2012 4 min read
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Sadly, this has provided many schools the opportunity to teach children about helping out others during a time of great need.

As Hurricane Sandy came storming in a couple of weeks ago many of us battened down the hatches worrying about how hard we would get hit. In upstate New York there was an eerie silence as we waited for the wind and rain to come. Although it was mostly dry during our school day we had no idea what to expect later that evening. Many students and adults were nervous about what was coming. For some of us the storm never really came even when we were anticipating the worst. It sprinkled and the wind hardly blew.

Unfortunately, there was a much different story a few hours south and not everyone was as fortunate as we were. Millions were affected. People were, and still are, displaced and their houses are gone. Family memories were washed away and power has still not returned to thousands of people. There are many who would love power but lack the homes or apartments to flick the switch on. In addition, there were schools that could not open and millions of students who were left waiting. Even though many opened they are missing all of the basic supplies they need.

A hurricane like Sandy can teach us all a lesson in what is important. State assessments, mandatory curriculum, and for a few days even the election took a back seat to the devastation that played out before us. The first question educators typically ask is,”How can we help?” Sadly, this has provided many schools the opportunity to teach children about helping out others during a time of great need. These are the moments when those of us who are fortunate to be in great schools get to see all people come together.

Steppin’ Out for Sandy
“It is the definition of adding insult to injury.” Brian Williams. NBC News

As hard as it was for people in those hard hit areas to deal with the aftermath of Sandy, many had to batten the hatches again as they prepared, as much as they could, for the first snowfall of the year. Children always look forward to the first snowfall of the year but this one could not have come at a worst time and it hit the areas that needed it the least.

Thousands of public school communities will come together to donate money, books, supplies and other resources to school. Perhaps they’ll do a community walk, a bake sale, a hat day or a week long food drive. The important thing is that they help. The school where I’m principal has some short-term and long term goals to help out those in need.

Many of the victims lost cars and thousands upon thousands of people were walking to work which involved many miles. Most students, and some adults, do not understand what that is like to have to walk such lengths to work or school. As much as it’s vitally important to provide assistance now, these individuals will need help for many months to come. We need to be able to do both.

Finding specific schools in need is important to those involved in establishing fundraisers. Those of us in the Northeast have connections to New York City, Long Island and New Jersey so we took time to choose a few specific schools. Other schools may not have the same connections so the following sites may help you find those schools with the most need.

American Red Cross

Fund For Public Schools

Adopt a Classroom

Literacy Lifeboats - Teachers College at Columbia University

Besides those four organizations, Charity Navigator has listed some organizations including the American Red Cross that are highly rated organizations helping the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

• American Red Cross - Listed above.
World Vision
Save the Children
Feeding America
Operation USA
Direct Relief International
Convoy of Hope

Some people donating may not want to go through larger organizations. If that is the case they really need to find schools most in need through connections with friends and family. Doing searches on the internet does not always give the best results because there are so many news articles and stories. I’m sure more tech savvy educators can probably come up with a list pretty quickly.

In the End
There will be damage for many months and years to come due to the storm. Although it is important to lend your support now, it will be equally as important to lend your support in the future because the issues are not going away anytime soon. Students need to know we want to help, not because we will be thanked, but because there are many in desperate need. As bad as it looks on television it is much worse in person.

Our students need to understand that although they may not have been affected by the storm, there are millions of children their age who have been. As we enter school and turn on our Smartboards and check e-mail there are countless others who cannot do that. As we complain about the coldness in the air and walk into school to warm up, there are many who do not have that opportunity.

If you have any great suggestions on how to donate money or supplies, please feel free to leave a comment.

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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.