For many of us, the usual fun and excitement that comes with the end of the school year has been replaced by shock and grief over the recent school tragedy. As an educator, you are once again on the front lines of supporting young people, answering the unanswerable questions, and helping your students process the unthinkable. We at Aperture Education recognize the enormity of this task and extend our heartfelt gratitude that your students have you to turn to in times like these.
Students across our nation can be affected by this trauma, leaving deep and lasting impacts on their core beliefs about others, their environment, and themselves. Now more than ever, schools must focus on ensuring safe, supportive learning environments.
We’ve outlined a few SEL-based tips teachers can use to help students work through difficult times.
During tough times, students will depend on strong relationships with family members, peers, and teachers. These relationships can help students work through stress, talk through their feelings and emotions, and give them comfort.
Concentrate on healthy and rewarding relationships with your students, be sure to practice clear communication, and listen to them. Let students know you are there for them. Be mindful that students who’ve experienced trauma may have difficulty focusing and processing new information, show more signs of aggression and bullying, find it difficult to trust others, and view authority figures with suspicion.
Students experiencing trauma often deal with strong emotions. When students are exposed to a traumatic event, they commonly experience anxiety and depression. Research shows that students with a growth mindset are more likely to maintain a sense of control over their emotions. Students are able to recognize that the volatile period after a traumatic event is a temporary state, and a growth mindset equips them with tools to bounce back.
Take some time to help students practice growth mindsets. Provide opportunities for students to talk through their thoughts, feelings, values, and emotions so they are able to process them in a constructive way.
There are many ways to help students manage their stress and emotions. Engage them in journaling activities, deep-breathing exercises, role-playing, and relaxation techniques. Promote a healthy diet and exercise to relieve stress. And, most importantly, encourage students to seek help if they feel their stress or negative emotions are becoming unmanageable.
Some students may need more intensive support after a traumatic event, beyond what teachers are trained to provide. Help students get the help they need by directing them to appropriate services, i.e. school counselors, social workers, family support entities, etc.
Schools can help students work through difficult times by creating learning environments that are safe, caring, and conducive to students’ needs. Teaching students skills to build strong relationships, understand and manage their emotions, and find healthy ways to alleviate stress can help them work through pain and suffering and go on to lead healthy, happy lives.
To learn more about how SEL can support trauma-informed practice watch our Trauma-Informed Practices in Schools and Beyond webinar series.