“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” -Carl Jung
Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on Friday, August 25, 2017, as a category 4 storm with winds of 130 mph. For the next several days the storm pounded the Texas coast and dropped an estimated 11 trillion tons of water on Texas. The result, according to AccuWeather.com, was about 51 inches of rain in some places, fifty-eight counties have been declared disaster areas, there have been at least 3,400 water rescues, 30,000 people are displaced, and more than 215,000 students are out of school.
I have lived in Houston for 20 years and have been through several hurricanes, tropical storms and the floods that follow, but I have never seen devastation like this. It’s heartbreaking, to say the least, to see families helplessly watch as the flood waters quickly rise and eventually overtake their homes to leave them with nothing. We all work very hard for our “things,” but sometime we are forced to prioritize our lives, whether we are ready for it or not. The devastation is horrific, but in the midst of the darkness, we are also able to see what humanity really looks like. Story after story of strangers helping strangers, neighbors coming together to offer assistance, and people from all over the country coming to Houston, sometimes driving all night, just to help. The response has been overwhelming and has helped me to realize that we are going to be OK.
On a personal note, I have had many people via social media ask me about my family’s well-being. I can’t express enough how much that means to me. I am so grateful to be a part of such a loving network of educators. My family and I are safe and dry. We had a little damage to our roof, but that’s about it. We have been fortunate enough to have been able to help out at our church and around the community.
But the recovery is just beginning and many families will be looking to their local schools as a safe haven for their community. The start date for students in Houston ISD has been postponed until Monday, September 11, and they are still assessing the more than 285 schools in the district. Houston ISD is the 7th largest district in the country. The district has more than 285 schools and serves over 200,000 students. In the next few days, we will have a better understanding about the overall damage to our schools.
So, what can we do to help? I have received many messages from teachers around the country asking what they can do for the Houston area. I have highlighted a few options below, and also included a link to a more comprehensive list from NPR.
- The Greater Houston Community Foundation established by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner
- J.J. Watt is an NFL football player for the Houston Texans. He decided to raise more for Houston and set a goal of $200,000. The response has been amazing. The current total is more that 18 million dollars from about 170,000 donors. Click here to donate to J.J. Watt’s You Caring campaign.
- Houston ISD is collecting school supplies. Click here if you would like to donate school supplies, Houston ISD
- Adopt-a-Gym is a grassroots program founded by Kevin McGrath, that will help match up school in need with schools willing to help. You can read more about this option below.
- I am also willing to personally deliver gift cards, supplies and offer any other assistance if needed. Please email me, email@example.com
Listen to the Global PhysEd Voxcast featuring Kevin McGrath, Founder of Adopt-a-Gym by clicking on the link below.
This summer, I was fortunate enough to meet Kevin McGrath at the PE Institute. He was talking about Adopt-a-Gym and I was very interested in the potential. Kevin describes the program as a fundraiser by kids and for kids, where a school raises funds to purchase physical education equipment for another school that is short on resources to purchase adequate equipment. Funds are raised through a fun fitness event such as fun runs, dance-a-thons and other creative active events. A school can register as a donor school, pledging to run an event, or as a recipient school in need of equipment. Here is the website for more details, https://adoptagym.wordpress.com/
Take these 3 easy steps if you would like to Adopt-a-Gym:
- Sign-up as a donor school at https://adoptagym.wordpress.com/.
- You will receive an email from Kevin McGrath with more details and examples of events.
- Talk to your principal, PTA, and colleagues about the prospect of running an Adopt-a-Gym event at your school.
We are also setting up an Adopt-a-Gym Voxer chat if you’d like to connect with other potential donors and recipients. This will also be a great way to ask questions and share ideas. Join the chat by clicking here.
For the next few weeks, we will be signing up schools in the Houston area to be a part of this program. If you would like to help, please consider Adopt-a-Gym. This is a decentralized program that allows teachers and schools to directly help those in need. The #PhysEd community is amazing and I truly feel blessed to be a part of it. As we all know, PE is not always on the top of the priority list at some schools. Adopt-a-Gym makes sure that these vital programs are not left out. Our kids need us and together we can make sure that every student has the equipment needed for a quality physical education experience.
Hurricane Harvey has forced us to prioritize our lives, but it will not define us. We are down, but together we will become stronger!
It hit me like a ton of bricks. I could no longer afford to keep teaching at my current school. I knew that on July 1st my rent was going to increase. I did not have enough money saved to buy a home yet and after eleven years of teaching, I was unhappy with my salary. I had started teaching in my former school system in 2006 and was preparing to go into year twelve on salary step number eight. I was frustrated.
“Ms. Tucker, you’re not going anywhere” my colleague said to me when I expressed my desire to leave my former school over a year ago. But on July 11th, I signed a contract to teach physical education at a new school in a new county after having spent 10 years at my former elementary school. I’m excited for the change but I have to admit, deciding on a new position had its share of challenges. My journey to a new school began with something I call “The 9-Interview Itch”…nine interviews in the span of five months.
It started with an interview at an international school in DC, then on to an interview with Howard County Public Schools’ PE Department, followed by an interview with Montgomery County Public Schools’ PE Department, then an interview in my former county, PGCPS, then on to three interviews at schools in DCPS and back to two more interviews with schools in Howard County. In each interview, I talked about positive behavior intervention and supports, classroom management, assessment in physical education, establishing a rapport with students, writing curriculum, connecting with parents and building relationships with the outside community. I found that each school system was vastly different in expectations, procedures, and quality of support offered to its educators.
I presented my best self with every interviewer. I learned that in the past 11 years, I had become more than an elementary physical education teacher. I had become a mentor, problem solver, advocate, coach, leader, professional development facilitator, cheerleader, and change-maker. I am going to be honest, realizing that I wouldn’t be able to support myself financially on my current salary was the motivating factor. It pushed me to set up interviews in the first place. But, each interview was well worth it. I built the confidence I needed to take on the challenge of teaching some place new.
Ultimately, I decided on Howard County Public Schools as the best fit. I felt that my experiences and passion for quality instruction were best suited there. If anything, the 9-Interview Itch lit a fire under me and forced me to ask two questions, “What’s next in your career?” Where do you think you can make the most impact as an educator?” As teachers we are constantly placing our students’ needs first. I get that. However, it is okay to question our salary, current position and overall motivation in our careers and make the decisions that also best support us.