As schools reopen this fall, virtually or in person, they remain a fundamental part of the infrastructure of communities. They provide safe and supportive environments, structure, and routines for children, as well as other needed support services to children and families (CDC, 2020).
To help families adjust to the new normal, be sure to devote adequate resources to outreach, communication, and family engagement. Fisher, Frey and Hattie (2021), identify building a community as a critical first step in starting the school year and important steps to develop a framework of trust:
- Make connections with families and students
- Implement social-emotional learning (SEL) supports
- Give students voice by sharing experiences (talking and writing)
Make Connections with Families
Communicate with parents. Determine parents’ preferred mode of communication (e.g. telephone, Zoom, texts) and best times to meet. Let parents know that you are a partner in their child’s learning. Offer them the support they need to feel confident in their role.
- COVID-19 Parent Guide, developed by the VDOE, serves as a resource for parents, families, and caregivers on a variety of topics related to COVID-19 and their students.
- Social Emotional Wellness Considerations for Parents and Caregiversoffers quick reference resources for parents and families in supporting their own social emotional wellness.
- Project HOPE-Virginia Resources for Families in Crisisfrom the Office of the State Coordinator for Homeless Education, serves as a dedicated resource page for families in crisis.
- Addressing Families’ Social-Emotional Needs During COVID-19, a K-12 Info Brief from Hanover Research, provides strategies for supporting the social-emotional needs of families, including communication practices for school divisions.
- NCPMI Transitioning Back to the Program: Connecting with Families includes online communication and phone scripts to help guide conversations with families.
Trauma and Social Emotional Learning
“The body keeps the score.” We carry trauma with us, vander Kolk noted in his 2014 book. Traumatic experiences leave traces and impacts (e.g. anxiety and the inability to concentrate), that must be acknowledged and addressed (vander Kolk, 2014). As teachers, we must take care of ourselves and model healthy responses to trauma for our students, and address them explicitly. Time spent up front, before delving into academics, sends students the message that feelings are accepted, and that we will listen and facilitate their healthy communication of those feelings. In their SEL Roadmap, Critical Practice 3, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) notes, that “students are best able to develop and apply these competencies when caring adults work together to create equitable learning environments where all students feel like they belong and have consistent opportunities to learn about, reflect on, and practice SEL, explore their social and cultural identities, and express their voice and agency” (CASEL, 2020, p. 29).
Make Connections with Students
The Virginia Department of Education’s publication Recover, Redesign, Restart 2020 urges educators to “balance the urgency of needing to know where students are academically with making them comfortable coming back to school” (VDOE, 2020, p. 62). Incorporate ongoing, formative diagnostic assessment into the first few weeks of school to support social-emotional learning and fostering student confidence and competence.
- A Four-Part System for Getting to Know Your Students is a system to collect and store the information for easy access and use.
- My Teacher Wants to Know is a questionnaire for welcoming young students back to your program.
- CASEL has developed An Initial Guide to Leveraging the Power of Social and Emotional Learning as You Prepare to Reopen and Renew Your School Community.
- Sanford Harmony Game Room Appbuilds inclusion and respect and creates connections with the students and families. Sanford Harmony Game Room is a growing collection of games, tools, and resources that help children grades Pre-K–6 develop social emotional learning (SEL) skills and mindfulness while they play.
- 7 Mindsets offers resources for teachers including SEL discussion prompts, videos, and activities to reduce fear and anxiety caused by COVID-19.
- Bitmoji Lockers Are the New Bitmoji Classrooms—and a Great Icebreaker for Students! Teachers are making virtual Bitmoji classrooms that include interactive elements so students can get acquainted with them and click through to assignments, documents, and websites.
- Self-Care Strategies for Educators offers practical information and guidance on self-care in these challenging COVID-19 times.
- For Administrators, from Learning Forward, Long Distance Leadership, check out the Monday Morning Check In to stay connected to teachers’ well-being.
Visit the T-TAC ODU Website for additional information
or to submit an Assistance Request.
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). (2020). Reunite, renew, and thrive: Social and emotional learning roadmap for reopening school. Retrieved from https://casel.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/SEL-ROADMAP.pdf
Centers for Disease Control (CDC). (2020). Preparing k-12 school administrators for a safe return to school. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/prepare-safe-return.html
Fisher, D., Frey, N., Hattie, J. (2021). The distance learning playbook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Virginia Department of Education. (2020). Recover, redesign, restart 2020. Retrieved from http://www.doe.virginia.gov/support/health_medical/covid-19/recover-redesign-restart.shtml
van der Kolk, B. (2014). The brain keeps score: Brain, mind and body in the healing of trauma. New York, NY: Viking Press.