GOOD

An inner-city schoolteacher visits post-Katrina New Orleans with his students.

Greetings from New Orleans, where I’ve come with two of my colleagues and a dozen of my students to participate in post-Katrina rebuilding efforts. We’re more than halfway through our weeklong stay here, and our community-service project has been a learning experience for all involved. My students will share their thoughts next week, and I’ll share my initial observations this week.

Lesson One: There’s no substitute for on-the-ground experience.

Over the last four months, we've been learning about New Orleans during a weekly afterschool class. As effective as those lessons were in prepping our students for what they would encounter down here, the ride from the airport alone surpassed all emotional preparation.

We drove past shuttered schools, including one that still—still!—had a notice for a September, 2005, event posted on its display board. We drove by innumerable abandoned homes tagged with the spraypainted "X" of rescue crews who searched for Katrina’s victims. All the while, our elderly driver told of his 19-hour drive to evacuate the city.

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