Forgiveness, acceptance and flexibility. Three little BIG words I have spent countless hours instilling in six-year-olds over the past 15 years. I never would have imagined simple lessons taught in my first-grade classroom would become so meaningful during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I get to see my mom today! She’s picking me up!” Evan would shout as he entered the classroom. Evan would talk all day about mom and the fun things they have planned to do, only to realize at dismissal as time passes and each friend gets picked up; Evan’s mom is not coming.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many district leaders are grappling with the new challenges of social emotional learning, among other things, in a virtual learning environment. Particularly when teachers, administrators, and counselors are not accustomed to remote learning, several questions emerge on exactly how to continue cultivating relationships and environments that support social-emotional skills and mindsets.
Every day, students across the country attend school, where they are expected to perform to their best abilities. There are clear standards for what constitutes the “best,” and that often leaves children who are struggling with emotional regulation or the impacts of trauma behind. How to help these students who are clearly struggling with emotional regulation and executive functioning skills remains a challenge even for the best teachers. Often, these students are labeled as “disruptive,” “bullies,” or “behavioral problems”. In reality, these students are searching for stronger connections and meaning without knowing the best strategies to find them. Even if only a small portion of the student body has experienced trauma, the entire school will be impacted by the effects. For this reason, it is important that a trauma-informed school takes a school-wide, collaborative approach.