Coaching Tip of the Month, May 2020
Teachers certainly make a difference… especially now in the recent situation of social distancing and remote learning. Our teachers have created thoughtful lessons and innovative ways to engage their students virtually. At the same time, they are experiencing their own anxiety as they try to convert their work from the physical to the virtual. And, if our teachers have their own children, they are helping them navigate the same virtual environment they are using to provide support to their own students.
Talk about trauma informed teaching… yikes!
A recent article, “Four Core Priorities for Trauma-Informed Distance Learning” by Kara Newhouse (retrieved from www.kqed.org, April 6) indicated the importance of understanding trauma-informed distance learning for students and their teachers. Alex Shevrin Venet describes four priorities to think about when involved in distance learning:
- Predictability: Covid 19 has created feelings of unpredictability and loss of control. Past daily routines and habits as we knew them are no longer the norm. And, if students are at home without their usual school room practices, the feelings of loss can be tremendous. Venet recommends that teachers replicate those routines that can be applied in a virtual environment, helping students experience some familiarity. But, new routines are also needed and expectations and directions need to be explicit. Teachers need to understand that giving students multiple opportunities to connect with each other will help with managing the virtual classroom;
- Flexibility: Students may not always be able to share their feelings or know how to cope with what they see, hear, and experience. The routines that are so familiar to them may challenge them because they don’t know what to expect. Remember, not every student will have the same physical structure at home in which to engage in remote learning; they may have siblings who need the computer or limited bandwidth to connect to their virtual classrooms. When that happens, the teacher needs to be flexible and create in approaching the learning environment. Teachers need to focus on what students need and discuss how to accomplish the goals. What about the class lesson can be relaxed and perhaps adapted to the environment that’s different for every student?
- Connection: “Relationships are key to resilience so anything that teachers can do to help foster relationships should be a priority” says Venet. Personalize each message and continually reach out to the students. Remember, the teacher is the stability the students need and want. The power of Zoom, Facetime, Google Hangouts, and other tools are critical for students to connect with their teachers and also to connect with each other. Remember to check in early and often with the students. That reliability will be appreciated and comforting.
- Empowerment: “Trauma takes power from people.” Wow… give the power back to the students. Things that might have disrupted the classroom in the physical classroom might need to be overlooked. Remove all barriers to learning while maintaining the proper decorum for school. Whatever was a power struggle before, needs to become a teachable moment now. Being engaged virtually is enough of a challenge; let’s not require something that is not meaningful or enforceable. That means, make sure the work is meaningful and authentic. Maybe now is the time to think about I-Search projects or collective problem-solving around environmental issues, health care issues, political issues, or equity issues. The students can spend valuable time researching some of the topics that are current now but would not have surfaced in their regular classrooms. Remember, “These are the times that try men’s [women’s] souls” (Thomas Paine). Be patient, practice mindfulness, and breathe! What weighs on you, weighs on your students, too.