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October 1, 2020

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Tell us about one strategy or change you've implemented to support students affected by trauma.
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Social-emotional learning
School Culture

When Music Can Soothe

I taught elementary school for 40 years and had many students who have suffered trauma in their lives. I remember one boy whose face told a story to me, and I wondered what I could do to help him. My elementary school used an art program that allowed students to paint with watercolor while listening to classical music, and I knew this boy enjoyed it. For the first 30 minutes of each day, we would put on the music and paint, moving us into a very calm space. I talked with this boy at recess one day and asked if he would enjoy more chances to listen to classical music to boost his spirits and to make the day a better day. He was open to this, so I set up a center (using a tape recorder—so out of date now) and put beautiful scenic pictures and wonderful upbeat quotes that he could see. Whenever he wanted to use it, he could go to that secluded desk, use earphones, and listen for no more than 15 minutes at a time. This seemed to work well for him, especially when I noticed that he reduced his listening time as the weeks and months went on and gradually didn't seem to need it anymore. Soon I realized that others were interested in doing this as well. I let my students sign up for appointment times, and we all enjoyed a more peaceful space in which to learn.
Pat Draper, TELL practicum manager, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah

Meditate Your Way

During our daily meditations in class, I provide options so that students who have suffered trauma can feel as comfortable as possible. I give them the option to close their eyes or keep them open, since some students don't feel safe closing their eyes. I also allow them to choose if they'd prefer to stay seated, lie on the carpet, or rest on a beanbag. Although I vary the focus for our daily moments of reflection, I tell the students to use the time in a way that helps them be better prepared to manage their emotions. While I'd like students to spend our daily moment of intention focused on the now, I realize that the act of meditation can be stressful and very unsettling for students impacted by trauma. I view this time of meditation as an opportunity to allow my students the chance to get recalibrated and settled.
Mark Holt, 5th grade lead teacher, The Beech Hill School, Hopkinton, New Hampshire

Mentoring for Well-Being

Mountain Ridge High School has a mentor program. This program delivers excellent social-emotional learning sessions to the students. The involvement of the mentors is a key component of being able to do wellness checks on our students, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Debbie Moore, marketing educator, Deer Valley Unified School District, Mountain Ridge High School, Glendale, Arizona

Choice and Control

The trauma our students experience is out of their control. As obvious as this may sound, we forget how much these students need moments when they feel in control. Give them options like choice boards, moments of classroom leadership, and opportunities to contribute to class activities. Restore choice and control back into their lives.
Alissa Farias, assistant principal, Tacoma Public Schools, Tacoma, Washington

In Memoriam

An amazing and dedicated teacher of one of our 4th grade classes died of COVID-19 in the middle of April. She had set high expectations, provided tough love, and knew her students as individuals. This teacher went the extra mile for her students, and her death was very difficult for them. I wanted her students to have some symbolic resources to remember her by and also to help them cope. I received a grant through DonorsChoose and purchased four items for each student—a novel, two math card games, and a large pencil eraser. The novel What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado connected to her educational philosophy, "Stay in your lane!" The two math card games were selected because of her love of teaching mathematics. The large pencil eraser was chosen because she strategically supported students with their writing.
Todd Feltman, literacy instructional specialist, New York City, New York

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