Opinion
Education Opinion

The Storm

December 22, 2006 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

When Hurricane Katrina smashed into the Gulf Coast port of Biloxi, Mississippi, it killed 52 people and destroyed homes, historic buildings, and two brand-new schools. But the storm may have done some of its worst damage invisibly—to the minds and spirits of Biloxi’s children. One student poet writes of August 29, 2005, the day Katrina made landfall: “A morning of thunder/ A morning of rain/ A morning of sorrow/ A morning of pain.”

The Storm by Barbara Barbieri McGrath

For this book, children’s author Barbara Barbieri McGrath has collected writings, drawings, and paintings by Biloxi public school students who endured Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. “[O]ne of the important ways children heal,” McGrath remarks in introducing the collection, “is through the arts.” If that is true—and there is no reason to doubt it—thena lot of healing is reflected in these pages.

Most of the pictures are primitive in terms of draftsmanship, but have great emotional power nonetheless. In some, houses, cars, mailboxes, trees, and fenceposts careen through the sky, as if the law of gravity had been suspended during the storm. In others, raindrops shaped like fat little bombs or long, deadly looking spikes fall fast and thick from malicious clouds. You get the impression from the drawings and paintings that the children must have felt as disoriented as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz—only, as one art teacher points out, they had no ruby slippers to click.

BRIC ARCHIVE

The children’s writings also reveal the struggle to comprehend the seemingly incomprehensible, often by comparing the nightmarish sights and sounds of Katrina to the familiar and pedestrian. “First, siding was flying everywhere,” 3rd grader Beatriz Cruz recalls. “Shingles were falling like pancakes. Everything got peeled like an orange inside and outside.” Older students tend to resort less to similes and instead look for an underlying moral in the storm that so shook their world. “Everything in life is a privilege, not a right,” says 11th grader Melissa Woodruff. “And I never believed that until I lost it all.”

At the time of Katrina, the federal government dithered and fumbled, and even now during the recovery phase, it continues to fail many victims of the storm. But, as this book movingly demonstrates, art doesn’t.

Howard Good is coordinator of the journalism program at the State University of New York at New Paltz. His latest book is Inside the Board Room: Reflections of a Former School Board Member (Rowan & Littlefield Education, 2006).
A version of this article appeared in the January 01, 2007 edition of Teacher as The Storm


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP