More than three years ago, a small group of educators decided to leverage the power of social media to host weekly conversations about topics of interest to students, teachers, and school districts across Michigan. Many of us have strong political beliefs, and actively petition legislators, special interests, and policy makers in our state’s capital. Many of us want nothing to do with politics, and are focused on creating better classrooms for learning, regardless of whether those are public, private, or charter classrooms. Despite these differences, all of those involved with the weekly #michED chat have strived to carve out at least one hour every week in which educators, students, and parents can gather on Twitter and discuss practical solutions to everyday problems faced in our classrooms.

To take such a highly principled approach to talking about education in Michigan is difficult at best; the institution is riddled with complexity, emotion, and supports that are so broken in our state that school buildings are literally crumbling in Detroit, and poisoned water flows through Flint school buildings. Eventually idealism for holding a better conversation must give way to honest feelings, reality, and tragedy. So it was last week that we hosted a community chat surrounding the conditions in Flint and Detroit schools. Not a chat about how to support union actions in Detroit, although many individual voices in the chat support them. Not a chat about the negligence of Flint’s water management, and pointing fingers at those responsible, although you will find many outraged voices at the disaster inflicted upon Flint. We wanted to reach out to teachers in Flint and Detroit and find ways to support not just them, but their students, their classrooms, and find ways to  wrap arms around those in the greater #michED community to help make students feel connected, safe, and cared for.

And for one hour last Wednesday night, we saw the community come together. Ideas for water projects and how to recycle, re-use, and re-purpose all of the empty water bottles in Flint were shared. Teachers across the state reached out to one another, and Detroit Public School teachers made connections with other teachers that wanted to start a dialogue between their classrooms, to talk openly and honestly with students about what’s happening in our state. We wanted to jump-start a process that can hopefully begin to connect classrooms across the state, foster relationships, and build a sense of shared community so strong that what is happening in Flint and Detroit will never happen again.

We can’t guarantee that future policies regarding education in Michigan will always be perfect, but we can strive to create strong relationships and understanding so that policies that have led us to this point in the first place will never have a chance of doing so again.

This past week, Ben Rimes moderated the chat about ways in which Michigan educators can come together to show support for Flint and Detroit schools.

If you have trouble viewing the archive of the chat, you can view the entire Storify archive here.

A chat dedicated to supporting students, staff, and students in Flint and Detroit Schools.