Limbo and the dance of optimism

Deep down, I am an optimist. I had to remind myself of that fact, during our third week conducting school in the Chico Mall. We still did not have a site for the new year. I was feeling like the middle child, forgotten, a ghost. . . middle school teachers often feel like middle school kids. The high school had been relocated, announced on the news and the elementary schools had been placed at other school sites a few weeks earlier. There were no ideal conditions for any of the other displaced Paradise schools, but our middle school was left in limbo and had not been receiving any communication about our future. We were going on winter break, packing up our mall room, and taking home our donated supplies because we did not know where we would be in January.  So yes, I was frustrated, emotional, even crabby. . . (Guilt is a recurring emotion too since my frustrations are only school related and not like those who lost homes.)

But then Ron Howard stopped by. Yes, I was a bit starstruck. I had watched him on Happy Days while growing up, and I had also enjoyed many of the movies he directed. So why was he here, stopping by our middle school room at the Chico Mall? He was gracious, shook our hands and smiled for photos. He was planning a documentary as Paradise works to rebuild and he had family in the area. He and his crew had stopped by before heading to the high school storefront. I spoke with his production crew and thanked them for visiting the middle school room, the forgotten place in which we dwelled. I told the two women working with him that our students had written incredible thoughts and stories on our class blog. Authentic voices. . . . real emotion. And I felt gratitude that others cared.

When you’ve lost normal, and you live in limbo, it’s nice to be remembered. And I realize, there are so many, near and far, that have reached out and remembered us. While we haven’t had traditional school for the month of December, we have had a lot of learning experiences. All of this generosity happened in about three weeks. It took a lot of coordination as some of our teachers reached out with requests, made the arrangements,  and figured out how to ride the public B-Line bus with thirty middle school kids. We kept our students connected, active and didn’t lose one of them as we traveled the town.

While I am beginning to realize that limbo is a land we’ll be living in for the rest of the school year, I am grateful to see the good in the world. I am blessed to work with my amazing Paradise Intermediate School team who keep lifting me up even when I feel like sinking. I am grateful to those who have reached out, checked in and taken the time to follow our story. We are crafting it as we go, and we don’t know where it will lead us. We do know for the next two months, we’ll be teaching at an Orchard Supply Hardware store which closed last year and still has signs, aisles, shelves. How will we make this into a school site in less than a week? I have no idea! Stay tuned for our further adventures.

Here are some of the ways that the community has shown kindness to our 7th and 8th grade students and staff:

 

 

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Author: Erica Blaschke

I am a middle school English and technology teacher from Chico, CA and have traveled the Skyway to teach in Paradise for the past 16 years. A fast moving wildfire changed the lives of our entire community on November 8th when the #campfire destroyed the town. We are now redefining what school and learning can be as we start over, unable to return.

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