by Katy McDowall
The effects of Harvey and Irma will still be felt in the months to come. The two hurricanes have wreaked havoc on homes, businesses, schools, and more across Texas, Florida, and other areas. As many as 8.5 million students have lost valuable instruction time in the affected states, with Houston Independent School District estimating $700 million in damage to schools and other costs. Although thousands of students returned to school this week in Houston, as did many in Florida, for many teachers and students, returning to the classroom—or normalcy—is not yet an option.
If you’re wondering how to help teachers and students affected by the storms, we’ve put together a list of suggestions:
- Donate funds to the affected areas. DonorsChoose.org has set up recovery funds for areas affected by Harvey and Irma. AdoptAClassroom.org has also set up relief funds. You can find a list of other organizations accepting contributions over at Education Week and KPRC Click2Houston. Starting a fundraiser with your class or school? Education World has a list of fundraiser ideas.
- Donate supplies—if you know there is a direct need. Disasters can cause an influx of unwanted donations, so if you’re going to send specific supplies to an affected school or teacher, it’s important to know that they are needed so that they do not go to waste. DonorsChoose.org developed an infographic about the importance of listening to teachers after a disaster, which is a perfect quick read to share with friends or colleagues who are planning their donation efforts. One way to ensure supplies are needed is by directly adopting a classroom. The Hurricane Harvey Teachers in Need Facebook page has a growing list of classrooms seeking support, as does blogger and teacher Briana Beverly at Sun, Sand, & Second Grade. The Houston Museum of Natural Science has set up a donation drive, including an Amazon wish list of supplies needed by local schools.
- Talk to your students. They might have creative ideas about how to help and may even be inspired to develop their own service learning projects to assist students and teachers in need. Keep in mind that, as author and psychologist Jim Forgan notes, hurricanes and other natural disasters can be highly stressful for young students. Based on their knowledge and experiences, your students may be uniquely poised to develop thoughtful and effective ways to help others. The New York Times has also developed a fantastic list of ideas and resources about how to teach Hurricane Harvey (there’s also an Irma lesson plan). The International Literacy Association has put together a great list, too. If you’re teaching in or assisting students from an affected area, the American School Counselor Association has an extensive list of resources about helping kids deal with hurricanes and floods.
- Write a letter of support. Edmodo has set up a page where you can write a letter of encouragement to educators and students affected by Harvey and Irma. This is also something you could get your students involved with, as one Iowa teacher had her students write letters to a Houston class and one Indiana teacher’s class became “digital pen pals” with a Houston class. Other online communities, like Teacher2Teacher, have also pooled resources and messages of support, like this Flipgrid created by a California teacher, where students are sharing video messages with peers in Houston who were affected by Harvey.
Are there other ways you'd suggest helping teachers affected by these storms? Let us know in the comments.