Tips for Administrators
The decisions educators make early on will have far-reaching implications for both displaced students and for the overall school climate. Even if principals have not received any new registrations, they can think ahead about how to handle the registration process when the first family arrives.
Some parents may have difficulty letting their children be separated from them. This is normal. Also, while some students look forward to the normalcy of school, others may not.
Principals may want to sponsor parent gatherings for all parents in the mornings as school starts so they have a place to meet each other and share the challenges of being a parent.
While assemblies often pay recognition to students involved in sports and leadership activities, administrators may want to recognize a wider range of students, with a special focus on making new students feel valued.
Staff will need extra support for a while. The full scope of challenges may not be obvious at first and will likely change over time. Principals can provide in-service staff development on helping disaster victims, as well as time for teachers to gather and share their frustrations and successes. Teachers also need the opportunity to generate ideas on how to welcome the new students.
Administrators can provide teachers with guidelines for leading class discussions on how to cope with disasters. Principals can encourage lessons on such topics as the science of hurricanes and other natural disasters, environmental impact issues, local development and economic revitalization, disaster preparedness and volunteerism. It may also be appropriate for teachers to lead class discussions on what it was like for students to experience the disaster and move to a new place and school. However, it will be important to let teachers know that every displaced child is different and that some will not find in-class discussion of the disaster helpful.
As with many things in life, flexibility and adaptability are key for school leaders.