Friday, September 3, 2010

Author adventures

School is back in session across most of the nation, or will be next week, for students. And as I think about the year ahead, I still smile about how the year ended for me and an elementary school that I was visiting.

I'd had a week together with a wonderful elementary school in state and it was our last day. Plans were to finish our writing/art projects in several classrooms and then the day would end with a short session with the parents, an ice cream social and a book signing while the parents got a chance to tour around and see what their students had worked to produce. And, as usual, some of the students had done an exceptional job.

So the day began. 8:20 am and I was five minutes in the first session of the morning and - BLINK- the lights went out. Just like that.

It had been raining all week. A steady but strong constant curtain of rain that kept me largely building-bound in a town I was excited to explore. As it turns out, this school is built on the edge of a marsh and one of the big cottonwoods that bordered the marsh had enough of the rain and fell. Snapping a power pole in the process.

Because it is a marsh, the standard equipment couldn't get to the pole to replace it and the crews had to wait for equipment to come up the freeway from another town. The school and the surrounding neighborhood would be in the dark all day. I was told that normally, the procedure would have been to notify parents and let students go home.

But there were two problems with that plan. 1 - the phone lines at the school went out with the power. Everyone would have had to break out their cell phones which would leave the students rather at large while messages, etc were left around town. And 2 - the administrators that would make the let-them-go decisions were in emergency budget meetings.

So the remarkable staff did what all enterprising and resourceful teachers do. They carried on.

We read by open windows, drew in courtyard-rimmed hallways, painted by the light of flashlights and toted water for our painters up the stairs to the better-lit atria in the library. Volunteer-manned lanterns marked the darkest corners of the hallways and restrooms were restricted to the ones with available lighting.

It was a fabulous day! The students really seemed to enjoy the toss-up in routine and still carried on with their work in an almost carnival atmosphere. The staff and parent volunteers laughed and joked and told stories as we figured out the worst of the disruptions. And the principal smiled right along with them, I hope with a measure of pride in how well her school responded to the day in the dark.

My hat is off to Bohemia Elementary for a day of fun and adventure! And maybe I'll make it back for some ice cream some day after all.

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