Tragedy as a Tool for Growth: Community Meeting Explores Growth in Challenging Times

Khan Lab School
February 11, 2021 / 5 mins read

Using Tragedy as a Catalyst for Hope

During our Community Meetingthis week, our students and staff explored the ways that tragedy can serve as a springboard for growth and positive change.

Virtually facilitated by former KLS Math teacher, Gabrielle Randall,our Community Meeting session challenged our studentsto consider the ways we can remember the good amidst dark, unpredictable times. Currently living and working in Guangzhou, China, Gabrielle used the power of personal narrative sharing, plant ecology, and folktalestories to situate the topic at handin both a local and global context.

Beginning with the California wildfires and their destructive impact on our local communities, Gabrielle guided students to remember the good that can springfrom disasters. Research shows that some forms of plant life, for instance, are called "fire followers" because of the way they respond to environmental cues like charred soil, smoke, and increased sunlight as a result of wildfires. Gabrielle drew a parallel between the ways plant species begin their growth cycles after the fire has been extinguished and the ways people, too, can begin to grow in the aftermath of tragic events.

Gabrielle recounted her experience as an American abroad during the onset of the pandemic, making difficult decisions about staying safe while also navigating personal challenges with the global backdrop of COVID-19. In Guangzhou, the state of the pandemic is markedly different from that of the Bay Area—there, schools are open, masks are no longer required, and COVID-19 has become an issue of the past.Using her lived experiences during and after the pandemic threat abroad, Gabrielle posed important questions for the KLS community to consider once the pandemic is behind us.

Gabrielle encouraged the KLS community to reflect on the future: "Take some time to meditate on what is going to come from the inconvenience—what is going to come from the tragedy? What is going to be different about the soil of KLS?"

After more personalstorytelling, Gabrielle closed with these words of encouragement for KLS: "Lean into the process, lean into the dirt that's being thrown on you, or the fire that is being used to purify you and refine you."

While the future is uncertain, the KLS community looks forward to facing the path forward together with these important points of reflection in mind.