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Denny Taylor, a Hofstra University professor,
speaks to Livingston Parish School System teachers and counselors. She
advised school personnel to be flexible when dealing with children displaced
by Hurricane Katrina.
TEACHERS, COUNSELORS ADVISED TO BE FLEXIBLE
WITH HURRICANE-AFFECTED CHILDREN
HAMMOND -- Teachers
and school counselors have a large and important role to play in the recovery
of children and their families affected by disasters such as Hurricane
Katrina, a Hofstra University professor told school and university personnel
in the area.
“School provides a strong
sense of structure to these children and it represents a safe place for
them,” said Denny Taylor, professor and doctoral director of literacy studies
at Hofstra in New York.
Taylor is currently working
with national and international agencies to establish an organization called
“Teachers Helping Teacher” to raise awareness of the trauma experienced
by children living in areas of armed conflict and natural disasters. During
her visit to southeast Louisiana, which was sponsored by the Southeastern
Louisiana University College of Education and Human Development, she spoke
with teachers and counselors in Livingston Parish and with faculty and
students at Southeastern.
Taylor volunteered her
services, said Diane Allen, dean of the college. “She is very concerned
about the children impacted by the hurricane and wanted to offer her insight
for our students and others who will be working with these children.”
“Children need time to
be able to think through what they have experienced,” she said. “They need
time to catch up, not just in school work, but in what they have gone through.
Homework as we traditionally think of it doesn’t make sense during this
She advised the teachers
to avoid a lot of “pressure work” such as test preparations and testing
during the initial period following a disaster. And she emphasized the
importance that children have tools of their own: books, crayons, paper.
These may be the few possessions some of them own.
“Our teachers need to be
flexible with these children,” she emphasized. “The last thing we need
is for children living in shelters and failing in their work.”
Taylor said teachers and
others should respect the wishes of children if they do not feel like talking
about the trauma they may have experienced. “If they are willing to share
their experiences, then certainly we should listen,” she added; “but we
should never try to drag it out of them because that can also be traumatic.”
Art, she said, can be very
therapeutic. “It gives them something to do, and allows them to express
Taylor suggested other
points that teachers and counselors should consider in dealing with distressed
sure that children have adequate food, clothing and shelter.
that children are doing their best to cope with the situation.
basic routines with children, encourage them to engage in self-care and
to feel as much in control as they can.
stories and more stories; sing songs; make sure there is time for children
children that, with the exception of self-destructive behaviors and emotions,
their feelings and reactions are reasonable given the situation.
parents informed of observations by sending letters when possible.
Taylor said it is also important
that teachers take care of themselves and each other. “Schools need to
make time for teacher support groups either at lunch time or after school,”
she said. “Teachers need time to discuss what is happening and to share
their own feelings.”