How are Teachers Handling Post-Pandemic Trauma?

We join with all those hoping that 2022-2023 is a school year without interruptions. While the pandemic is now under control, parents and teachers see the lasting impact on our students. The Kaiser Family Foundation notes, “children have been uniquely impacted by the pandemic, having experienced this crisis during important periods of physical, social, and emotional development.

This time of collective trauma was compounded for many communities by persistent racism and increased violence. Children and youth do not always express the impact of trauma in their lives in a recognizable way. That makes it challenging for educators to address trauma, and it often shows up in behaviors that disrupt learning.

Many schools have started the year with an increased focus on social-emotional learning, including opportunities for students to utilize quiet or calming corners in classrooms when they get overwhelmed. They are a key component in a trauma-informed environment and assist students to regulate themselves and return to learning.

At the Sauer Family Foundation, we believe that some life experiences are traumatic for children, but talking about them with caring adults and learning resiliency skills can help them achieve a fulfilling, healthy life. That means that opportunities like a calming corner are only one piece of a puzzle.

Responding to student behaviors in a meaningful way requires us to connect with students and ask them questions. A student who is hungry may present the same as one who has witnessed community violence. If we do not hold space for the stories of those students, we will not be able to help them in an effective way.

Building relationships to help students feel safe sharing their stories takes time. Programs such as Miss Kendra embed those conversations in the classroom. Every student is asked on a regular basis if they are experiencing stressful events and is helped to recognize their worries by a caring listener. Programs like these not only give students an opportunity to communicate, but they also allow educators to offer an effective response.

In this back-to-school season we are thinking of all those who nurture our students as they adjust to post-pandemic life. We’re thinking of how our own stories shape us and we are challenging ourselves to be safe, caring listeners. We invite you to do the same.

– Emma