All of our students have gone through trauma in the current pandemic, some, of course, more than others. Here are a few ways that we, as educators, can help.
1. Build Relationships — Students need to know that there is an adult out there who loves them no matter what. When students come to your class for the first time, be sure to greet and welcome them. If the student speaks a language that you don’t, remember that smiles transcend all languages. Try to find a student buddy who can speak the same language so that you can check in frequently. Students may want to talk to you about their experiences, so be open to the opportunity, keeping in mind that behavior is a way of communication as well. Look for signs such as rapid breathing or teary eyes. When these signs are present, offer choices of activities that the child may enjoy.
2. Create Structure — When students know what to expect, they feel safer. Examples of structures include writing the agenda on the board, using entry and exit routines, and having clear expectations for students.
3. Predictable Transitions — Change can cause fear for students who have experienced trauma. To ease transitions, give time warnings before transitioning to a new group, activity, or class; warn students before unexpected disruptions such as assemblies; and routinely use soft sounds like chimes to get students’ attention.
4. Provide Choice — Students who have experienced trauma often feel a lack of control. Provide choices, within your established structure and educational standards, such as books, activities, or projects.
5. Praise — Praise students out loud for as much as you can, even if the positive reinforcement is for small things such as sitting still for five minutes.