A few years ago, my seven-year old required emergency surgery - three days before my sister's wedding. In the lead-up to the surgery, I asked the doctor if my child would heal in time to walk down the aisle. An audacious request, but you at least have to ask. Without batting an eyelash, the doctor replied, "Kids are resilient." Sure enough, no one at the wedding would have guessed that one of the adorable nieces and nephews walking down that aisle had been under the knife just a few days before.
In turns out that kids are not only physically resilient, they are mentally and emotionally resilient as well. This past week has been an excruciatingly trying time in the Northeastern United States, as Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy effectively shut down large portions of New York City, washed away parts of Long Island and the Jersey Shore, left millions without power for days (and some about to enter week two without electricity), and created gas lines reminiscent of the 1970's oil embargoes. Many schools were shut for all of last week, and some remain closed this week or have had to open to alternate locations due to storm-related damage.
On an individual level, the week has been a taxing one. For the millions of home without power and heat, staying at home meant coping with ever-dropping temperatures and having to read or play games by flashlight, something which is an adventure the first night but quickly loses its appeal. Many people have taken up residence in the homes of family and friends, but the sense of being uprooted is never a pleasant one. People have spent days in malls and libraries and Starbucks stores just for some warmth and some power for their devices.
And so after a week without school (I would never call it a vacation - it was anything but that), we opened our doors today, ready to deal with kids who had been without power for days, kids who might be going home to someone else's house, kids who have been through a week the likes of which most of the adults in the building have never been through. And then, as they always seem to do, the kids came into school like almost nothing had happened. Yes, they all had stories to share, stories that had happened to them or their neighbors or their relatives. Yes, some of them are still displaced and had that look of waning hope that by the end of the day the lights would go on. Yes, some were grateful that the school was providing school lunch for everyone, even those who normally bring from home. But on the whole, today was a surprisingly normal day from start to finish.
It is said often that kids crave routines and guidelines and boundaries. That as much as kids seem to want to be able to do things their own way, most of them want to operate in a world where the basics are clearly defined and there are safety nets around them. Seeing our students today reinforced how true that is. As much as kids do not love the work or the tests or the rules, something in them appreciates that school represents a stable part of their lives, and after a week of instability they are happy to be back with their friends and even with their teachers. They are indeed resilient, and the fact that they treat it as something so normal is perhaps the most amazing part of all.