October 10, 2017

I Survived, Group Processing of Hurricane Irma

Irma hit us hard. It created chaos not only in our personal lives but our school lives and schedules. We had barely started school before we were on a two and a half week break to recover and rebuild our lives after the storm.

My co-counselor and I wanted to assess all of the student’s need as quickly as possible that first day back. In order to do that, we had to get help from the teachers. After welcoming their class back, they passed out these “I Survived Irma” screeners. One version was for kinder through second and the other was for third through fifth. 

After each student completed it, the teacher reviewed the screener sheets so that they knew each student’s situation. They then sent the screener sheets to us counselors, flagging the ones that caused them concern. It was such a time saver. It allowed us to identify and create a list of students in need within the first two hours of the school day.

We were relieved to see from the sheets that the majority of our students adapted well to the chaos and confusion.  Many had evacuated and were spared from seeing the destruction unfold in real time. Their parents did a really great job covering up what had actually happened and making it seem like it was just a fun vacation time. They came back after the electricity was back on and had their homes fixed before they returned. I was really happy that so many kids were shielded and had no idea what exactly went down.

Others were not so lucky. I found out quite a few of the kids were still living in shelters even though it had been so many days since Irma struck. A handful of kids lost their homes and quite a few were really hungry. That was the part that hit me the hardest; the kids were so hungry. We didn’t know when they ate their last real meal. My heart broke for them.  

We decided to do a big group meeting that afternoon so we could cover some of their basic needs quickly. All the kids we were concerned about met us in the library. We had about 50 or 60 kids show up. During that time we gave out new backpacks, personal hygiene products, school uniforms as well as necessary school supplies that were lost during the storm. We are so fortunate to have such a great community and so many resources to pull from so we can help these kids when they really need it.

What really warmed my heart, was that the cafeteria staff prepared meals for the kids to take home and share with their families. You should have seen how happy they were when they were given those meals. I am so proud that I have a job where I can coordinate efforts that give students that kid of joy.

The vast majority of the students were fine after that meeting. They just needed to know that everything was okay and regain a sense of normalcy. Other students (like the ones who lost their homes) needed a bit more in order to cope with their loss.

With those handful of students, we had them work through their feelings using this handy flipbook. It was really nice for them to get their emotions out on paper and connect with other students in similar situations.

It seemed to help quite a bit.

I am so glad that school is back in session. I like being able to have my eyes on my babies and love that we are able to help in any way we can.  

Download your own copy of "I Survived" for free HERE
Download a copy of "I Survived a Natural Disaster" HERE 

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