Teaching children how to respond in emergency and crisis situations, begins by developing good policy in schools. New emergencies, new stresses, new crisis, require that every school system have clearly defined policies and plans in place, and that teachers know them. It is only then, that teachers can know how to help students cope with emergency and crisis circumstances.
Over a period of many decades, schools have had tremendous experience teaching children how to deal with emergency situations such as fires, tornadoes, and earthquakes. In each of these situations, practice drills are conducted on a regularly scheduled basis, and students are prepared in the event, such a tragedy should occur.
In 2010, schools are faced with new types of emergencies, and the experience far more limited. Fewer teachers know how to respond to the high school student that walks into a classroom, aims a gun, and begins shooting several students. Not many teachers know how to help children deal with the crisis that occurs, when a plane of suicide bombers strikes a building in a suicide attempt, killing thousands of people. Far fewer schools know how to help children, that attend school, but live on the street.
New tensions, new problems, new crisis situations often render the school system, the teacher working within that school system, and most importantly the child, with adequate coping skills.
While it is nearly impossible to outline solutions for each event that can occur in today’s complicated society, in a single article, this article is an attempt to provide some tips and tools that can help children cope with emergencies. Teaching this information must begin with developing good policy and procedure within the school. How can a teacher teach, when it lacks information about what to teach?
At a minimum every school system needs to provide education to its teachers about the elements inherent in crisis situations. Trauma and grief have been well studied. It should be a matter of policy of each school, and each teacher within that school, to understand the elements of crisis. It is imperative that emotional responses be studied, so that teachers can recognize reactions that are typical to crisis, and those that are atypical.
While a teacher may, or may not be able to do anything to prevent a student from walking into a classroom and shooting, dealing with the reactions of this shooting can be addressed. It should be a standard operating procedure that every school identify the counselors in the community that are available to work with children following a crisis or emergency situation.
Following crisis or tragedy, rumours run rampant. There should be clearly defined procedures established designed to separate fact from rumor. One person should be assigned to this task.
All school systems need to put into place before a tragedy occurs a list of resources of social service groups, parents, concerned community members available to provide assistance, and make sure that these resources are readily available to teachers and students.
“At risk” children should be identified, counseled and provided with additional resources and supports.
No teacher, school, parent or child can possibly prepare for the multitude of emergency situations that can occur. What every school teacher, parent and child can prepare for are policies and procedures that should be implemented in the event, such an occurrence does occur.
While you may not be able to prevent the emergency or the crisis, you can make a difference in your reaction to that crisis. It is your responsibility to develop programs, policy and procedures before a crisis occurs to respond to the emergency. These policies and procedures will consider emergency training, and consider the uniqueness of your particular school. The best tip for teaching student tips, is to develop clear policy.