I teach and live in a beautiful small town in eastern Kentucky where the mountains are breathtakingly scenic and spring is currently revealing its opening act. Our community is small, our students are close knit, and our faculty is like family. Even on our best day–when there is no global pandemic and when we can look into the eyes of our students and get a sense of their state of mind–a lot of our students deal with situations they shouldn’t have to. They deal with trauma. Trauma from living in poverty, trauma from having no one to turn to but a grandparent, trauma from witnessing the battle of addiction in their household, and, in some cases, trauma from experiencing domestic violence and abuse.
When we add the stress of a global pandemic to those adverse experiences, students become even more at-risk. In an article I recently read from Teaching Tolerance I saw this…
“…in other countries, rates of domestic violence and child abuse have increased during the COVID-19 crisis. Stress and increased isolation are risk factors for abuse. Families experiencing difficult financial issues or job loss during this time might be especially at risk. But all families will be under increased stress and isolation with varying levels of support and resources.”
All families. All families are under increased stress and isolation. All students need to be treated with care, especially those with low levels of support and resources. So what can we do?
From the same article, three crucial steps teachers can take are as follows:
- Promote a sense of safety.
- Foster connectedness.
- Instill hope.
In general it is recommended that teachers establish a routine, maintain clear communication, and allow well-being to take priority over assignment compliance.
Some ways our district is currently doing this…
- Each teacher is required to contact each of their students once a week. (Most are contacting more often.)
- Teachers offer virtual meetings for face to face contact.
- Teachers accommodate students who don’t have internet access by printing assignments and checking-in by phone.
- District staff and classified employees are delivering nutritious food to students.
- Counselors are supplying additional support to at-risk students by hosting sessions online or on phone.
- Family Resource Coordinators are meeting additional physical needs.
- Teachers are reminded to consider the amount of added stress to parents when creating assignments..
- Teachers are encouraged to design activities that consider the whole child by promoting self-regulation activities such as stress management and mindfulness.
- Everyone is encouraging students as much as possible by keeping a positive attitude and modeling compliance
Is this enough? I hope so. Each day we are working as a team to get better at this.
I would love to hear about the amazing things your district is doing to meet the needs of your students during this time of crisis on twitter @NapierJess. Use #safeconnectedhopeful
I highly encourage you to READ THIS ARTICLE from Teaching Tolerance for more ideas to encourage your students to
Jessica Napier is the 2020 SHAPE America Southern District TOY, Health and PE Teacher at Lee County Middle High School in Beattyville KY.
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