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Classroom responses of New Zealand school teachers following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake


Following a damaging magnitude 6.3 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand on February 22, 2011, an unprecedented number of displaced school children were enrolled temporarily or permanently in new schools throughout New Zealand. This study utilized accounts from primary school teachers in New Zealand, derived from focus groups scheduled in March and April 2011 for an evaluation of a disaster preparedness teaching resource, to examine how these disasters impacted individuals and schools outside of Christchurch. The educators’ focus group accounts provide an illustration of classroom responses including providing emotional support to displaced children, informal classroom discussions, curricular responses, addressing disaster rumors, and information seeking through peers. Some recommendations are provided on ways to support teachers’ important roles in disaster recovery, including targeting evidence-based guidance and teaching resources to schools enrolling displaced children, dispelling disaster rumors through schools and facilitating peer mentoring among teachers. An overarching lesson is that communities would benefit from teachers being better equipped to provide emotional support and responsive disaster education to children after disasters.

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This research was supported with funding from the sponsors of the Ian Axford (New Zealand) Fellowships in Public Policy, administered by Fulbright New Zealand, and the New Zealand Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management. The opinions and views expressed in this paper are the personal views of the authors and do not represent in whole or part the opinions of Fulbright New Zealand or any New Zealand government agency.

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Correspondence to Victoria A. Johnson.

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Johnson, V.A., Ronan, K.R. Classroom responses of New Zealand school teachers following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. Nat Hazards 72, 1075–1092 (2014).

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  • Displaced children
  • Disasters
  • Schools
  • Christchurch earthquake
  • New Zealand