The Foundations We Build


Joan Moser

April 4, 2013

April 5, 2013

In early February, Crestline Elementary in Vancouver, Washington, a school where we have the honor of working with staff, had a catastrophic fire. The good news—it was on a weekend, so no one was hurt. The bad news—the school was a total loss. Imagine it. Everything gone: books, student journals and work, all materials, PE equipment, assessments—gone.

We received this picture from our friend Mary, who is a second-year teacher on year two of a loop at this school.

She writes:

"This picture was taken right outside my exterior door. Look what survived, well, sort of! These were the wooden CAFE letters for my CAFE board. I set them out to take the picture, and then left them there—they are a part of Crestline."

Because the whole school was a loss, the staff and students were divided up in the days after the fire and spread throughout the district in any available space. Mary's note continued:

"On our first day back in class after the fire, there I was in a totally different classroom and school, and I reached for my chimes to bring the class together—the chimes weren't there, obviously—and I realized how much I depend on the structure we've created and loved for the past year and a half. I grabbed the nearest glass jar and a pair of scissors to get my students' attention, but it just wasn't the same.

The surviving CAFE letters are a nice metaphor for the work we've done in literacy—the fire burned all of our books, notebooks, and things, but the work we've done with comprehension, accuracy, fluency, and expanded vocabulary still stands. No matter where we go, that foundation we have built as readers can't be destroyed.

Students who were interviewed while witnessing the fire said they'll miss their books and book boxes. The first day back, we just found some books and read to each other. The security that came from doing what they knew and loved calmed them as they settled into their books."

We were incredibly moved by Mary's words as well as the perseverance, dedication and commitment of the entire Crestline staff. Even in the midst of a major tragedy, they continue to teach us.

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