Lessons From The Middle Of Nowhere

I have always intentionally tried to keep my job as a teacher out of my blog posts.  I firmly believe there should be a separation between my work and my home within my posts.  I’d rather not tell stories of unnamed students–I teach in a small enough school, people would figure it out pretty quickly who I was talking about.

BUT, I have had this overwhelming feeling to share what my students did on Friday to help members of their community.  Before I tell you their story, I have to give you the background information:

Last Saturday–April 14th–Kansas experienced an outbreak of storms.  We were expecting them, too.  The National Weather Service had issued a severe weather threat for areas including our part of Kansas days before.  I anxiously waited for Saturday as I watched the news and kept tabs on my family living in Oklahoma who started seeing the weather a day before us.

I wasn’t surprised when the weathermen at the Wichita television stations broke into programming very early that Saturday afternoon and began a marathon coverage of severe weather.  In fact, the National Weather Service now says that Kansas was hit by more than a month’s worth of tornadoes on that day alone.

Adam was planting corn all day trying to get as many acres covered as possible.  And then that afternoon the storms starting popping up around the area.  A line of storms passed through the county to the west of us–which is where my school is.  A tornado had been spotted 5 miles west of the town where I teach.  Then the news showed live video from a storm spotter of a funnel five miles west of a town where many of my students live.

Time and time again the spotters and the weathermen would say things like, “This is a large wedge funnel…luckily it is out in the middle of nowhere so there will be minimal damage.”

While I’d have to agree we were very lucky that the storms didn’t go through more towns, I have to question the “middle of nowhere” comments.  There was damage in these “middle of nowhere” places and people live here, too.

People live in the "middle of nowhere" and were affected by these storms.

As the evening went on (and while one of the dogs and I hunkered down in the basement while watching storm coverage) they began showing the damage from the storms.

When I got to school on Monday morning, students stopped by my room to show me pictures of the funnels that they had captured on their cell phones.   A couple students checked in with me to get their assignments and to let me know they’d be missing class because they were helping clean-up.  I had a feeling that the students who came to school felt like they should be out helping as well–and I sincerely believe it had nothing to do with wanting to miss class, or postpone state assessments, or skip practice.  I really, truly believe these students had a sincere feeling of urgency to help others.

Fast forward to that Friday…

The entire student body at my school–which is abut 160 students– participated in a community service project for the ENTIRE school day.

Sixth through twelfth grade students showed up wearing their work clothes and sturdy shoes.  Some brought their own work gloves, and rakes, and coveralls.

The younger students stayed in town to complete projects, and the older students (8th grade-12th grade) went out to help six area families who had been affected by the storms.

Students lined up and walked acres and acres of wheat fields to help clear debris left from the tornadoes.
Wheat harvest is less than six weeks away. The debris scattered and hidden in wheat fields would cause a lot of damage to the combines and other machines...
Combines just aren't equipped to handle things like tree branches...So they needed to be found and taken out of the fields.
I should add that walking through waist-high wheat fields is a workout, but the students did it because it needed to be done.

Walking wheat fields wasn’t the only thing students did.  They also helped clear fields that still need to be planted.

Farmers can't properly plant corn and soybean seeds if there are giant tree branches scattered throughout the fields.
Downed trees also needed to be moved out to clean up cattle pastures.
These kiddos had to use their muscles on Friday.
It was amazing to see what they pulled out of these fields and pastures.
Found: A random boot

While the students were clearing debris from the fields and pastures they had to also keep their eyes open for other things–things of value.

Wheat seed scattered in a yard after the bin it was in blew away.

Because aside from barns, outbuildings, and grain bins that were damaged and destroyed during the storms…

...Parts of people's lives where scattered throughout the "middle of nowhere" as well.
A little boy's toy.
This is where a house once stood. Now all that's left is the foundation.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of my students.  These kids felt the need to help, they went out and worked hard to make a difference for people of their community, and they put their all into it.  And while I’m not at all surprised by it, their work ethic, compassion, and dedication still simply amazed me.

So many lessons to learn at school–whether in a classroom or out in the middle of nowhere.

22 Thoughts

  1. I can understand why you would want to keep your role as a teacher out of your blog posts but thank you for sharing this story. I really enjoyed reading it and your pictures really tell the story. Being a part of a community that cares about each other is a wonderful place to be (even if it gets the odd tornado)! Glad you’re all okay!

  2. Yes, there were lots of “middle of nowhere” places hit in Stafford County. I think it’s great that the school helped its neighbors. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I overheard someone say that if the National Guard had come out to help they’d have trouble finding parking spaces because of all of the people who came to help the hours and days following the tornadoes. I think I found another beauty of living in rural America last Friday.

    1. They totally thought of others before themselves–which is refreshing. It was the day before prom–girls who had been perfecting their tans and had already had their nails done still showed up and didn’t complain. Students could have easily been “sick” and missed school that day, but they chose to come and help. There’s a lot of good kids in this world 🙂

  3. These rural Kansas kids are great! And, I share your sentiments exactly about living in the “middle of nowhere” but there’s no place else I would rather be. Some people just don’t get it.

  4. AMEN!!! When I heard that “minimal damage in the middle of nowhere” comment I thought the same thing!!!! That irritated me so badly!! I’m happy to hear how your students helped out those who were affected.

    1. Andrea, thanks for visiting the blog! I felt it was important to show what our teenagers are capable of doing PLUS show another story that might not make the news because it doesn’t affect a large audience. Life happens far from the big cities, too, and I think it’s important for people to be reminded of that from time to time.

  5. People are so thoughtless. If they don’t have it in their face, whatever “it” is, then it doesn’t matter. I hear it all the time…straight to my face from my friends who live in the city. Thanks for the great post. I’m a follower of your blog now and I want to invite you to follow mine. Here’s a link to a poem I wrote about being sucked into a tornado…. http://denaweigelbell.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/its-coming/?preview=true&preview_id=752&preview_nonce=d7c5e817c0

  6. Great Post. While the Kansas City media does a fairly decent job of reporting tornado damage in small towns in Kansas and Missouri, I have never seen a story on the damage done to farms. There really isn’t anyplace in the middle of nowhere. Everywhere is somewhere.

    Great work by the students. I imagine walking the fields would take forever if you didn’t have help.

  7. The outpouring of community support was greatly appreciated. The damage and destruction is overwhelming for those involved. It was great to see your students and community members helping out. Thanks from a relative of someone involved!

  8. thank you so much for this post. I live on Oklahoma and my Son and family was one of the ones that live in the middle on no where. it breaks my heart that they had to go thru this and wish there was something I could do. Just yesterday I found myself telling someone that the middle of nowhere is populated to, he was acutally upset because he missed part of Dancing with the start on Monday because of the storms here in OK. I let him know that was very shallow on his part and explained to him the distruction my Son had had. Also that if the storm was coming to him hew would want to get the message from the weather stations. Very heartwarming to see all the support from you student. Some people would never know the cost of repairs of the equipment . Thanks to everyone for all their hard work.
    A concerned Mom from OK

  9. Well a month has passed and I am just seeing this article, brought tears to my eyes! Those “kids” that come from “The middle of Nowhere” always tend to show up to work together in these situations! That community is blessed to have such great kiddos!

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