‘The children were bouncing around like ping-pong balls in their turtle positions.’
It is an image many of Canterbury’s 10,000 teachers and education staff saw at 12.51pm, February 22, 2011, when the 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck.
Children screaming and running with teachers frantically indicating over the roar of the noise for children to do the ‘turtle’ — drop, cover and hold.
But as it was lunchtime and pupils were outdoors, on school fields or in groups with friends, there was nothing to hold onto.
Canterbury University senior lecturer Veronica O’Toole interviewed 20 teachers on their experiences of those day and says the role staff were thrust into, was that of a ‘first responder’.
‘Let’s just remind ourselves of the amazing job they did. We entrust our children to teachers everyday, we entrust them with their lives and we know when they possibly can they’ll do everything they can to protect them,” said Dr O’Toole.
Nearly eight years later, teachers are still dealing with the aftermath, as they do what they can to ease anxiety for children over school rebuilds. Spreydon School shifted from its site of 146 years earlier this year, which meant careful planning to ease anxieties.