Teaching after Hurricane Harvey


As Rice prepares for classes to resume tomorrow, the Center for Teaching Excellence and the Office of Student Wellbeing have collaborated to produce the following guide to working with students in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Addressing Harvey in the Classroom

There are many ways you might address the storm, ranging from a short acknowledgement at the beginning of class to a complete redesign of your course. We have outlined a number of options below. Research suggests that students are likely to find each of these responses helpful, and that the only approach they are likely to find unhelpful is to not acknowledge the storm at all (Huston and DiPietro, 2007).

In the first 10 minutes

  • Acknowledge the storm
  • Note that they may find it difficult to pay attention/get back into the routine of coursework
  • Let them know your plan for helping them stay on track in this atypical environment (e.g., reducing workload, extending deadlines, offering extensions, or adding review sessions)
  • Remind them of campus resources if they’re feeling distressed (see below)
  • Share practical advice from the Office of Student Wellbeing (see below)
  • Provide suggestions for how they might get involved with recovery efforts (see below)

During the first class period

  • Lead a discussion about how they’ve been affected by the storm
  • Open the floor for students to ask, and attempt to answer, any lingering questions they have about the causes and consequences of the storm
  • Ask students to write about an issue in your discipline that might be connected to the storm (e.g., climate, urban design, class, local government, the media, etc.)

Throughout the semester

  • When relevant, work to incorporate analysis of the causes and consequences of the storm into applied assignments you’ve already planned
  • Design a semester-long project related to the storm (e.g., projects on the science of hurricanes and climate change or service-learning projects related to recovery)

Advice and Support

General Advice

  • Keep an eye on your students and how they are coping, referring them to appropriate campus resources when necessary (see below)
  • Be sensitive to cues that may remind students of the storm (rain, standing water, smell of gas, darkness, etc.)

Tips for Leading a Discussion

  • Ask your students whether they are interested in having that conversation
  • Let students set the ground rules for how the conversation will proceed
  • Make sure student participation is voluntary
  • Watch for negative nonverbal communication
  • Work to clarify any distortions and misconceptions that arise

Further Support

To Share with Students

General Advice

  • Prioritize nutrition, exercise, and sleep
  • Find someone to talk to
  • Avoid watching too much news if it’s upsetting
  • Try to get back into a routine
  • Take more breaks if you’re having trouble concentrating
  • Get involved in recovery efforts

Resources for Staying Healthy

Resources for Getting Involved

References and Further Reading

DiPietro, Michele. “The Day After: Faculty Behavior in Post-September 11, 2001, Classes.” In To Improve the Academy, edited by Catherine M. Wehlburg and Sandra Chadwick-Blossey, Vol. 21:21-39. Bolton, MA: Anker, 2002. [Full text of earlier version here: http://podnetwork.org/content/uploads/The_Day_After.pdf]

Huston, Therese A., and Michele DiPietro. “In the Eye of the Storm: Students’ Perceptions of Helpful Faculty Actions Following a Collective Tragedy.” In To Improve the Academy, edited by Linda B. Nilson and Douglas Reimondo Robertson, 25:207–24. Bolton, MA: Anker, 2007.

Northern Illinois University. “Teaching in Times of Crisis.” http://www.niu.edu/facdev/resources/crisis/teaching.shtml.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network. “College Students Coping After the Hurricane.” http://nctsn.org/sites/default/files/assets/pdfs/coping_college_hurricane.pdf.

Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. “Teaching in Times of Crisis,” 2013. https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/crisis/.

Posted on September 4, 2017 by Elizabeth Barre.