It is important during this world pandemic to keep the areas that are affected by stress and trauma forefront in mind:
- A sense of safety
- Feelings of connectedness
- Feelings of hope
Here are some activities and strategies to put in place to help students in each area during this time.
Sense Of Safety
One of our basic needs is to feel safe. The whole world is experiencing feelings of constant unsafety and danger during this pandemic. The good news is there are simple things that can be done to help students feel safer and gain power in protecting themselves and keeping themselves safe.
Teachers and families can empower students during this time by sharing how following safety measures prevents the spread of this virus. Teachers can have students research community resources for COVID-19 and present their findings to the class. Teachers can also host a mask-making session so that students can feel connected to a resource that is designed to help them be and feel more safe.
There are several social, emotional, and wellness strategies teachers can teach and practice with students to help them feel safe and the power to affect what is within their locus of control in immensely stressful times. In class, students can practice self-soothing techniques, breathing exercises, mindfulness exercises, journaling feelings, and identifying where in their homes they feel safe and can relax and rest. Teachers can ask students in individual meetings how these exercises are helping them feel safer when they have been feeling unsafe.
Students also feel safe when there are predictable routines, structures, roles, and responsibilities. The expectations for students and their behavior, social, and academic performance should be clear and followed. Teachers can use community building exercises daily in their digital or in person classrooms that help build social and emotional skills that fulfill that safety of predictable classroom routines.
Sense of Connectedness
Humans need to feel connected to others, valued by others, and cared for by others. Teachers can continue to build and nurture relationships with students during this pandemic by providing safe and positive classroom settings where students feel connected to their peers and teachers.
Teachers can set separate times for individual or small group check ins with students to continue to nurture their relationships with students and families. Other ideas are drive-by surprises, personal voice memo texts, video messages, or video calls. These can help students feel loved, valued and appreciated by their teachers and other staff members.
In the classroom, teachers can model how to identify, process, and express different emotions and feelings that will build students’ sense of connectedness. Teachers can also ensure student voice and choice are included in each class/lessons. Teachers can model how to share emotions in a way that feels safe and supported. Some examples could be sharing drawings and written reflections, gratitude journaling, small group work or think-pair-share opportunities, Compliment circles where each person shares what they appreciate about their peers also works well.
Feelings of Hope
Students can build up their feelings of hope by completing activities that teach and increase their competence, self worth, and empowerment.
Students can engage in hope building activities by vision-setting for their future. Teachers can share future field trip ideas, future unit themes and content, create lessons sharing information about different high schools, colleges, careers, and more. Teachers can also have their class participate in a group service project so that students can connect with the community outside of their homes and feel like they are actively contributing to being helpful to others.
Teachers can build students’ sense of empowerment and competence by allowing students to lead certain parts of the lesson like community circle activities, songs, breathing exercises, and games. Students can share how they have used the social and emotional strategies they have learned in class to self-regulate during these times.
An opportunity for empowerment is to create space for students to make choices within the classroom. Allowing students to exercise control helps empower them within their schoolwork and daily life. Students can share work products, what they’ve learned, or teach a part of the lesson to their classmates.
Another opportunity to build competence is to have students identify areas of interest or hobbies. Teachers can help guide students to find resources that will encourage and build their skills in that area which will help students become drivers of their own learning.
Another very simple way to build hope and self worth is encouraging students to try again when they make mistakes. Allowing the opportunity for second chances reinforces that during trying times that seem out of your control, there is always something you can do better yourself.
It is important during times when children are affected by trauma to intentionally build activities and strategies like these into daily classroom instruction and life to help students build their sense of safety, feelings of connectedness, and feelings of hope.