As southern states Florida and Georgia rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Irma, one teacher encouraged his students to share their thoughts about the monster storm’s horrific impact on their lives using just six words.
And while some might consider that far too concise a means of sharing such a tale, the responses from his 7th grade students are surprisingly tear-jerking and inspiring.
Jon Mundorf, a teacher at P.K. Younge Developmental Research School in Gainesville, passed out Post-It notes for his pupils to ‘share their Irma stories in six words’ – and the messages he received in return were so profound they have since earned viral fame online.
Post-It poem: Gainesville, Florida teacher Jon Mundorf asked his pupils to share their Hurricane Irma stories in six words on the day classes resumed after the storm subsided
Meaningful message: The students wrote surprisingly profound and inspiring messages, such as the above, where the pupil said the hurricane did not kill Florida’s spirit
Poignant poem: Despite the word count constraint, the messages were so moving, such as this phrase of strength, that the teacher shared them on Facebook where they went viral
In between the lines: One pupil’s powerful poem had a double meaning, referring to new lights after power failures after his city took an unexpected beating from Hurricane Irma
Raise your voice: Another student got extremely descriptive listing their families two water jugs, insufficient plugs and a swarm of bugs as the strongest memories from the storm
Role model: Jon, above, teaches seven classes of 7th graders, all of whom penned their thoughts
The touched teacher posted a select five responses on Facebook, where they instantly spiraled into internet fame and have collected over a 1,200 shares and 7,600 likes.
‘When trees fall we must rise,’ the first note read.
‘Irma destroyed things, not our spirits,’ another reflected.
‘Irma was strong, we are stronger,’ a third pupil shared, underlining the power verbs ‘was’ and ‘are’ for emphasis.
‘When power fails, new lights appear,’ another poetically wrote in a phrase that has meaning in more ways than one.
‘Two water jugs, insufficient plugs, hundred bugs,’ a Florida student said to summarize the hurricane’s effects.
The teacher explained that having his students voice their experiences was more important that immediately hitting the books.
‘We wrote these stories as a warm-up activity our first day back from the hurricane days. Emotions are so crucial to cognition and I needed to address how they were feeling before we got back into academics,’ Jon shared to Daily Mail Online.
‘I wanted students to tell their own story, but I also wanted them to hear other stories, especially the ones that differed from theirs,’ he added.
The activity not only allowed the students to open up about their experiences but also alerted faculty about what children might need more support in response to the disaster.
‘The activity also gave me an opportunity to identify students and families who may be in need of additional support as a result of the hurricane,’ Jon said.
After the students jotted their thoughts, the class shared their stories with each other.
Stronger together: One student stressed the important of staying together as a family when the tragedy struck and they were safe at home
Schools out! For several students the hurricane means time off from school and vacation fun
Fun time! More video game time was a hot topic for this student who still had electricity
Powerless: For others, the storm cut off power, internet, and forced residents to camp in their own homes without any energy source
Standing tall through it all: Another student shared a poetic message of standing tall and strong despite the endless downpour of rain
Devastating storm: The monster hurricane ripped the roof off of one student’s house, alerting the school of the child’s extra needs in the disaster relief
‘They could read what they wrote, tell about something else, or just ask questions about the other person’s story. After we moved back to the big group and I asked kids to share a story that caught their attention,’ Jon revealed.
‘When we were all done, I thanked them for trusting me and their classmates enough to share a their stories. Stories are a big deal. Everyone has a story and everyone’s story is important,’ he added.
The children’s stories spanned topics of staying at home playing video games, remaining in the safety of their homes, surviving with no power, standing strong in the heavy rains, and losing a roof to the ruthless storm.
Soon after, Jon’s posted was shared over and over, even onto viral accounts where the messages quickly amassed public attention with overwhelmingly positive responses.
Jon explained to commentors on his post that this was just a sample of his student’s thoughts.
‘There are a hundred or so more on my classroom door,’ he said.
Fans took to the comments section to applaud the teacher’s reflective exercise.
‘That’s beautiful. Made my heart uplifted,’ user Brett Davis wrote.
‘This means they have been surrounded by positive adults whom have filled them with hope, and encouraged them to see the best in their situation. Learning to control how we react is a valuable skill. Love everything about this,’ one fan Lindsay Tomlinson wrote on the shared post.
‘What a wonderful bunch of stories! I am a retired teacher and just was absolutely moved by these kids’ words. Thank you!’ another impressed Facebook user Cheryl Richards wrote.
But in a true educator’s fashion, Jon didn’t stop there.
To the commentors that shared their love for his pupil’s messages, he turned the six-word challenge to them and asked how they would share their Hurricane Irma story, giving adults the chance to voice their experiences as well.