Pandemic and Pedagogy: Elementary School Teachers’ Experience of H1N1 Influenza in the Classroom


  • Patrick Howard Education Department, Cape Breton University, Nova Scotia
  • Joy Howard Clinical Trials, Cape Breton District Health Authority, Nova Scotia



phenomenology, hermeneutic phenomenology


This study examined elementary school teachers’ experience of pandemic preparedness efforts by provincial and local agencies in Nova Scotia, Canada during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic. Eleven (11) elementary teachers were surveyed and interviewed and their responses analyzed to determine themes that have pedagogical significance for both education and health promotion. Teachers surveyed experienced a profound sense of responsibility for the children for whom they act in loco parentis. Teachers perceived themselves to be infection control agents and acted on behalf of students to mitigate the spread of the disease. Due to the unique relationship between elementary teachers and children there were high levels of fear and anxiety experienced. Teachers felt fearful for their personal safety and for the health and well-being of their students and reported high levels of anxiety in children. Elementary teachers, who are on the front line of pandemic response, need to be central to administrative efforts to prepare, educate and provide training for those in contact with a high number of vulnerable populations. Further research is required on the experiences of middle school, secondary teachers and principals at all levels of schooling.