A Smooth Welcome Back
June 11, 2021
June 11, 2021
By Mavis Hendricks Brown
The last year has brought us collective trauma in the forms of the COVID-19 pandemic and a sharp increase in civil unrest. As we return to in-person instruction, it’s imperative that we understand the impact of the last 12 months on young people and its effect on how we manage our classrooms.
Some students will be coming back to school bearing the burden of toxic stress due to abuse, trauma or grief. According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, healthy development can be derailed by the excessive or prolonged activation of stress response systems in the body and brain, leaving damaging effects on learning, behavior, and health for years. Many families have experienced layoffs and furloughs, and a reduction in household income can manifest, says ChildSavers, in ways that result in domestic violence, drug abuse, and child abuse and neglect, which in turn can create absenteeism, learning disabilities, poor health and emotional scars.
With all that in mind, here are some research-based ways you can help your students:
Give simple and realistic answers about recent events. Clarify distortions and misconceptions to the best of your ability. Let children know they’re safe and you’re looking out for their well-being.
Middle and Secondary Students
Some students have spent a great deal of time with a lack of structure. This may be something that spills over into a regimented classroom where social distancing will be required and certain acts of compliance with COVID-19 regulations must be enforced. The Schools Committee of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network says you may see some of these behaviors:
Many adolescents, if given support, will recover in a few weeks or months. However, if these behaviors magnify, contact the parent or caregiver and reach out to the school counselor, psychologist, or school social worker.
Some modifications in the way you interact with students can provide the support needed that will best accommodate the issue with a student.
Modified Teaching Strategies
The National Education Association offers some overall helpful reminders for teachers:
Teaching today is increasingly complex, and unexpected events cause us to rethink how we’re managing our classrooms. Reach out to fellow teachers. We’re constantly learning from each other about how to best provide stability and preparedness for our students and helping them function and thrive during a time of adversity and uncertainty.
Brown, PhD, is an associate professor of education at the University of Richmond.