Natural disasters and the LTO manager

The second in my unexpected (even to me) series about natural disasters in ELT, and to tack on to the previous post and bring us back to managing language teaching organisations…

Over the course of the last year I have met and/or worked with 3 language school managers who have recently had to deal with natural disasters.  This is not dealing with natural disasters in the same way that I had to (ie by musing while being slightly inconvenienced), these are genuine, on the spot, life- and livelihood-threatening experiences.

Last year I met the owner/director of a language school in L’Aquila, Italy, who had a school in the old city, the building of which also was her and her family’s home. Not only did she lose her home, her school, and more or less all her possessions, her husband had to dig their daughter out from under her bed using his bare hands. Somehow, by the time I met her, she had reopened in the suburbs where they were now living, and was still providing language courses to the shattered community.

Last summer I taught a group of managers (taking the IDLTM), one of whom was the Director of Studies of a language school in Christchurch, New Zealand. Between the face-to-face portion of the course, and the online work beginning, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck, sending everyone scattering for cover, and devastating the city.  David wrote asking if he might have an extension on his assignment as he was temporarily running his school out of a hotel outside the city centre. (I agreed, you will hopefully be unsurprised to learn).

And now, another student of mine, in another IDLTM  group, the Director of Studies of a language school in Brisbane’s Central Business District, will presumably have to help pick up the pieces of her probably flooded school. I haven’t yet heard from her, but I am sure that she’s fine, just trying to take care of the pressing needs of such an event.

I’m not sure if there are any management lessons to be learned from these experiences as such (well aside from “Make sure you’re properly insured!”), as we can only hope that we never have to deal with them. I’d suggest making sure that the teachers are fine, and that the students needs are taken care of as much as possible, as management tasks, but these seem less like management lessons than just natural human responses (and despite what some people think I still believe that managers are a subset of humans).

I guess the one thing that one could possibly take from such a realisation of what some DoSes or other managers are having to cope with, is that whatever crisis has happened this week – the teacher informing you by email one day before the start of the new term that he’s not coming back; the corporate client not signing a new contract; or the computer lab being hit by a virus – could always be worse.  And until you’ve had to move your entire school at a day’s notice, or wade through knee-high mud to your office, things aren’t so bad really.

[Happy Update: The website for Belinda’s LTO in Brisbane now has a pop-up window reading “XXX suffered no damage due to flooding. [We] will be open as normal from Monday 17th January]