Publish at February 23 2021 Updated August 03 2022

What role for the teacher after a natural disaster?

Great support for students

Humanity adapts to a world that is at times hostile. In the course of its history, it has had to face various pandemics, wars and natural disasters of all kinds. After each difficult event comes the moment of reconstruction, of the return to normal. For children, it is not always easy to recover from the emotions they have experienced. They can then count on their parents and also on the teaching staff as support.

One of the pillars of the community

When we think of the repercussions of a disaster, it is often the material ones. Homes may have been damaged, roads collapsed, services lost, etc. That is the tip of the iceberg. Yet, beneath the surface, we forget about mental health. This one is greatly affected by nature's rampages. After all, a disaster comes with a sense of shock that is not easy to live with. Even less so as a student who does not have all the life experience of their parents. Moreover, their parents have to live with the emotional consequences of a disaster themselves. So they are not always in a position to help.

Teachers have a crucial role to play. They are also role models that students emulate. They need to be able to create a safe space (even virtually) where learners can share what they have experienced and what they are feeling at the moment. In this way, they can gradually rid themselves of toxic tensions that interfere with learning. In addition, they provide a place where rebuilding begins. It would be easy to just go back to "the way things were" but that would be counterproductive. It is better to work on developing feelings of resilience and thus work together to decrease the risk of post-traumatic stress.

Teachers are additionally sources of knowledge. From the best of their knowledge, they can answer questions that children have and use them, surreptitiously, to talk about science topics, for example. instructional materials are sometimes offered to address these issues with students. Moreover, a teacher's role takes on a different meaning when the school is considered a shelter from natural disasters as in Japan.

In this country regularly hit by earthquakes, typhoons and tsunamis, faculty have a function both with students who must learn what to do in the event of an earthquake but also with parents who may not know emergency protocols. Training institutions also become guides for finding resources to recover financially, psychologically, etc.

Recovering after the disaster

The issue of educational continuity is often not discussed much after a disaster, yet it is meant to be essential. The CNED owes its creation to World War II (1939) due to the requisition of schools and the mobilization of many teachers.

If the school has been affected, home education temporarily becomes a relevant method that can be implemented. Even more so if the family computer has been backed up from the disaster, allowing access to many educational resources. Moreover, initiatives are also born during these troubled times. For example, in Texas after Hurricane Harvey, mobile labs allowed 15,000 students to continue learning in uncertain times.

The issue of distance learning is highly important in educational continuity. In 2010 and 2011, severe earthquakes hit New Zealand. Students at the University of Canterbury unable to return to the premises so soon were provided with an online learning platform. Technology tools already in place, including cloud computing, were used to their full potential. Some were also created in the wake of the events to improve communications between university authorities and students. Services and approaches that could be used again nearly 10 years later during the covid-19 pandemic.

So it is possible for faculty to be allies that will enable the community to bounce back after a disaster. A role that will be increasingly common with climate change resulting in extreme temperatures. Moreover, this leads some to remind the importance of teachers in working to eliminate the status quo and establish a greener society. This does not mean guilt-tripping or necessarily making connections between local disasters and climate. Nevertheless, they are important sources of knowledge and role models who can encourage younger generations to reduce the human ecological footprint.

Illustration : Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay


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Kwauk, Christina. "Roadblocks to Quality Education in a Time of Climate Change." ERIC - Education Resources Information Center. Last updated February 2020.

What was the crisis that gave birth to NCED? - Thot Cursus

"Recovering From a Natural Disaster in College." Affordable Colleges Online. Last updated January 7, 2021.

"Supporting Students, Families and Communities After a Natural Disaster." Share My Lesson. Last updated September 15, 2020.

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