Recently, several families at my school experienced the devastating effects of a fire that left five families on their block without a home. Fortunately, no one was hurt but one family at our school lost all of their belongings. The different communities this family belongs to have offered various levels of support as they look for other places to live and try to reconstruct their lives. Some people are offering monetary support and some are just providing a bed to sleep in for the children and parents.
Our principal sent a letter to all the families in our school detailing the situation and asking parents to consider making a donation for this family in our school. On the back of the principal’s letter there is a simple drawing and a brief note from one of my former students. Having been evacuated in the early morning hours and probably wondering herself if her home and family would be safe, she wrote a simple missive to her friend calling her a hero. My former student’s mother realizing how upsetting this event had been for her child prompted her daughter to draw and write about it as a way to soothe her fears.
As I read the correspondence that went home, I marvelled at the power of writing. The principal recognizing the urgency of the situation prompted by my former student’s writing decided to use her piece of writing to spur others to action. He recognized that the fire is being discussed and worried about among the children. So, how can we reassure our students and take an action that may help this family in their time of need? Teachers agreed to discuss the letter in our classrooms and to urge the children to talk about what happened with their parents.
It is events like this that reconfirm for me the power of using writing as a way to make sense of our world and to consider how we can have an impact on what happens around us. I know this little girl and her mom are feeling very empowered right now.