Friday, August 12, 2011

Drying Out

Many people have been quoted on the topic of people responding to challenges. They all seem to touch somehow on the general topic of resiliency and community, ideas that certainly underlay my last post on the flood our lower school suffered. As we recover from this challenge, two things have struck me about myself as a leader. First, I didn't realize how much of a control freak I can be--not about minutae, but about generalities. I say that because it's driving me absolutely crazy that I can do absolutely nothing to fix this situation on my own. All I can do is try to reassure people, to make sure we're on track, to adjust as the situation changes--but I can't do the real work of repairs. Second, I like to pride myself on the fact that I don't get too wigged out about anything. But "the flood" is somehow always on my mind and keeps me from focusing totally on other things I need to be doing.

Let me back out for just a second to provide a bit of context. When I've spoken to some people, they haven't grasped just how much water we had in the building. It covered the floor of our lower school, some office space, part of our library. In places it was at least an inch deep. When I first saw the building last Friday, I couldn't begin to guess at the extent of the damage. I didn't think there was any way we'd be ready for school to open on August 23rd.

But it looks like we will be...and here come the real points.

For the last week I have watched true experts at work. They came in a knew exactly what to do, and they did it quickly and efficiently. The lower school ended up resembling some sort of laboratory, as you can see in these pictures:

They had blowers, desiccant machines (the big silver things in one of the photos), tubes snaking everywhere, machines to measure moisture and to check for mold and mildew.

The result? It's amazing. A week later, and it's almost bone dry. We lost several boxes of supplies, and a great deal of sheetrock had to be cut several inches above the floor. The base of extensive millwork was damaged and must be replaced. But the carpeting is fine and the damage is much less than we all had feared. Most importantly, there are no signs of any mold or mildew, so the air will be safe for everyone here.
As they're slowly removing and shifting the drying equipment, another team of experts has come in--people replacing the sheetrock and getting ready to deal with the millwork. I'm amazed how quickly they have been able to patch walls.
Watching these workers has made me think hard about what we ask students to do in school. These experts are putting all their training and experience to work in a meaningful, important fashion. Talking to the, I can tell how sincerely they take their mission of helping people recover from damaging situations. It is the latest evidence for me of why I believe schools need to be integrating more and more project-based learning and service learning. Students needs opportunities to show all the great things they can do, and they need to feel that it matters. Given those chances, students often provide wonderful surprises.
Soon these experts will be done with their work. Then another set of experts will move in--all the people of St. John's who are expert at community. I can't wait to roll up my sleeves alongside them.

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