When many more children return to school buildings in September, educators will need to deal not just with lost academic time but with the trauma and dislocation many students experienced when COVID-19 disrupted their lives.
That’s why the UFT, drawing on City Council funding, developed a two-hour training session that is being offered to all educators this spring to help them address the challenge.
Called “From Trauma Awareness to Healing-Centered Classrooms,” the CTLE-eligible professional learning webinar is teaching simple strategies that UFT members can incorporate into their daily practice to help them assess and respond to stress in their students. Participants will receive short videos and ready-made resources for classroom use.
“Our members need training in how to identify students who may need additional support and then we need to build a crisis intervention team in every school they can refer these children to,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.
The seminar draws on the successful crisis intervention techniques honed by the Positive Learning Collaborative, a joint venture of the UFT and the Department of Education that has been engaged for eight years in helping schools create a positive climate for teaching and learning through restorative practices.
Many NYC public school students lost family members to the coronavirus, saw parents lose employment or have been left without permanent shelter or without access to regular healthy meals.
School is often a safe haven for children with family lives in turmoil. It will be an emotional reunion in the fall, but many students will arrive with issues that may interfere with learning. Educators, too, have suffered losses, but they will be expected to be the source of comfort and compassion for their students so they can focus on learning.
It’s exactly the kind of challenge the Positive Learning Collaborative was designed to address.
“Kids will be walking in with feelings and experiences from the past year that they’re trying to process and cope with,” says PLC Director Dana Ashley. “We’ll give them the tools to use in the classroom that are easy to access and remember, and they’ll know where to go for more help for their students and for additional resources.”
The workshop will not only help teachers identify students who may need additional support, but will also help teachers recognize their own stressors.
“Teachers are struggling and adjusting, too,” said Ivette Stern, the associate director of the PLC. “Teachers need to be in a good place emotionally themselves in order to give back to students on a regular basis.”