Hurricane Harvey is still, after days and days, hammering Texas and Louisiana. 100% of my family lives in Houston and its surrounding areas. As I type this, my cousin, a 4th grade teacher in Houston, is still trapped in her home. She’s not in imminent danger, but she’s stuck. And she’s worried about her students and her classroom that she just set up. The kids are missing their first week of school, at the very least.
I am the only one in my family not physically affected by this awful storm, but I’m an emotional wreck. Once I pulled myself away from the news for about an hour, I put my teacher hat on and began to brainstorm ways that fellow teachers across the country can help rebuild classrooms and lift up school administrators, teachers, and students.
After a tornado, hurricane, or blizzard, there will be some areas more affected than others. Some schools will be completely destroyed, while others will be up and running after a few weeks. So, the needs of each school and each teacher will vary. It’s very important to not raise money or gather supplies without asking first what is NEEDED. It’s not really helpful to assume what is in short supply.
If you don’t know a teacher personally that was affected, but want so desperately to help, the best way to reach out is via social media. Put out the word on Facebook that you (or your school) is looking to adopt a school, classroom, or individual teacher to help. Do this on your personal page or in a Facebook teacher group that you’re a part of. Chances are that it won’t take long to be put into contact with a principal or a teacher.
From there, ask them what they need. If they’re going to be moved to portable buildings, that probably means they’re starting from scratch and have nothing. Offer to gather Walmart, Target, Amazon, and Teachers Pay Teachers gift cards to purchase supplies or curriculum.
ELA teachers will need help replacing their classroom libraries. Offer to purchase grade-level books for them from Goodwill, Salvation Army, Scholastic Book Clubs, and asking your friends for donations of their children’s books that are just collecting dust.
Should someone wish to donate cash, keep this as is and give directly to a classroom teacher. Allow her the freedom to spend this on individual student needs. She may find out that someone is lacking shoes that fit or someone that needs extra uniforms. Teachers, as you know, know their students (and even their families) very well!
It can be difficult for even unaffected students to see images from disasters. Have your students work through this free resource to talk about the storm that they’ve watched unfold. Use this as a jumping off point to starting your disaster relief drive. For students, directly involved in the storm, this resource includes an assessment to determine their physical and emotional needs.
It is OKAY to start gathering supplies, gift cards, and resources for a teacher that has been displaced ASAP. There is no time like the present to get people moving to help. If the distressed teacher is not quite ready to accept the donations, just hold them until she is stable in a classroom. Naturally, the further away from a disaster we move, the immediate urge to volunteer dwindles. Many hands make for light work, and I hope that you encourage your students, administrators, and fellow teachers to help other schools in need. Every bit makes a difference!