The strongest thing that I’m seeing is a drive, an understanding of the whole child that comes into the building, a focus on empathy, and then providing the environment that is safe for them.
I think we’re being responsive to individual needs, but it’s a little bit like triage. So when the need comes up, I think we’re able to serve kids. We’re able to connect families and kids to outside providers. We become the bridge to the mental health community for kids or families that have needs. I think the identification process has become better, so we’re able to intervene more quickly than we would have in the past. We need to intentionally teach social-emotional development to every learner in our system, and having a curriculum that can be rapidly scaled out to all learners is super important. We need to train our teachers on trauma-informed care and how we help kids that don’t have all the support structures of a traditional childhood. And how do we teach empathy and care for the adults that will then wrap around that child so they can be more successful?
It goes back to Maslow’s hierarchy. If you don’t feel safe in your building, you’re not going to be able to learn. A lot of times, we may provide a safe environment, but if they’re not feeling safe internally, if there is something that’s worrying them so much, we can’t reach them. It’s kind of like if a student is starving, well, they’re thinking more about food than they are about what we’re teaching them in science that day.
One of the things that I’ve always tried to do is be visible, not as an evaluator, but as a supporter. “Do you need anything?” I try to make sure I get around in the mornings and say good morning. I try to make sure I visit classrooms on a regular basis. When you do those things, you’re being proactive in eliminating some of the trauma pieces.
We should be their advocates. That is our role. We are to provide those resources that our scholars need in order for them to feel safe, ensuring that their basic needs are met. We’re going to make sure we have those social, emotional resources addressed first and foremost, providing those counseling services if our scholar needs them to address their mental health. Also, connecting parents to the resources that are in the community — social workers, school social workers, school counselors — so that the family can feel safe. Our role is to be a cheerleader, letting them know, “We’re here to support you. We will get through this.”
I would like to have a climate of greater empathy in a school, where everyone understands or at least listens to and is open to learning about others’ challenges and differences.
With the normal routines being upended, it’s important to establish new routines for your family. A new daily routine might include a consistent wake-up time, hygiene routine, set work blocks, set online learning blocks, lunch break and family time.
Don’t leave the TV on the news 24 hours a day. News can feed our anxieties and stress while offering little in the way of productive solutions. When you do get information, make sure that you get it from reliable sources such as “.gov” or “.edu” sites.
Remember that children, youth and adolescents process information and feelings differently than adults. Take time to have family discussions to talk about how you’re all feeling.
It’s important that you take time as a family to have fun and relax. You can play board games and0 try out word puzzles or brain games.
You don’t just have to do push-ups or sit-ups to stay active. Try playing hide and seek, build a fort, put on some music and have a dance party or try yoga.