Better Together: Thoughts on Recovery from Irma and Harvey

James Dean is a fellow Floridian and has represented Thinking Maps for 17 years.  Prior to that James was a Palm Beach County mathematics coordinator and classroom teacher.  He shares his thoughts on the recent hurricane and the many communities impacted.

Catastrophic, paralyzing, and destructive are just a few descriptors of the impact of Hurricane Irma’s wrath on the Caribbean, Florida, Georgia, and North and South Carolina. On the heels of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation, there will be long periods of recovery and healing in many parts of the U.S. and internationally.

Despite those harrowing headlines, other more positive expressions are being used—like resilient, compassionate, and supportive. These attributes have been witnessed as communities pull together to share in the cleanup and recovery efforts. Neighbors helping neighbors and complete strangers bonding with strangers provide glimpses into the power of our humanity to overcome natural disasters and restore communities back to wholeness. You see, the storms leveled the playing field, paying no mind to zip codes, home values or business types. As human beings, we know that this kind of devastation could have easily impacted any one of us.

In Kevin Dougherty’s recent Hurricane Harvey blog, he beautifully expressed how every cloud has a silver lining. To that, I would add that facing a shared disaster creates a community of connectedness. Here in Florida, it was obvious—from the proactive staging of first responder vehicles, gas tankers escorted to fuel stations, local grocery chains pre-stocking shelves, and hotels opening their doors with fixed pricing—that recovery efforts would take more than just one person or entity. Floridians saw the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and set about preparation plans before Irma even arrived.

As I look around my neighborhood and watch social media posts and national news, it is clear that we are better together. It is amazing how a catastrophic hurricane results in neighbors meeting neighbors, social media posts abounding offering access to power and lodging to those without, and a host of organizations donating resources to those in dire situations. Conversation starters are easy now, and empathetic responses sincere due to the collective experience.

The conclusion is clear: humanity is better served when we look beyond ourselves and rally to assist others. History tells us that we are resilient. Communities will rebuild, revive, and prosper—but NOT without each other.

Educational learning communities are the same, as we can’t and won’t prosper in isolation. Research supports the notion that educators need to work collaboratively and collectively, as the work is too great to manage on our own. Natural disasters remind us that we truly can’t go it alone. As students return to session, it is my hope that educators and learning communities will reconnect and forge new bonds to rebuild school communities that are even stronger and more resilient.

We would love to hear your stories of resiliency, compassion, and the support you received during your time of need here at our Thinking Maps blog. We know that by working together, schools and communities impacted by Irma and Harvey will come back stronger than ever.

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