Here we use the framework to outline specific guidance for how schools can use a trauma-informed approach while responding to the needs of their students, families and staff during this COVID-19 crisis. The framework presents 10 Core Areas of a trauma-informed school system:
The Physical and Emotional Well-Being of Staff
The COVID-19 crisis has taken a toll on everyone. Teachers and school staff in particular are facing additional professional stress. Many of their methods of practice have changed, and they have had to learn new skills and technology platforms while also assuring that they have the necessary means (including internet access) to shift to working from their homes. Additionally, they likely have their own personal stressors such as having their children and other family members at home, facing economic insecurity, or having concerns for their own health and the health of loved ones. As educators and staff began to connect with their students, they may also have felt concerns about their students. For example, some students may attend sporadically or not at all, may be living in less than conducive conditions, or be unable to connect one-on-one. All of these layered issues have the potential to contribute to anxiety, depression, or symptoms of secondary traumatic stress. Consider following resources for:
Educators and School Staff
Educators and school staff can consider the following strategies during this time, to help reduce the impact of these stressors:
- Practice self-compassion: remember that it is best to take care of yourself before you try to take care of others.
- Take time to check in with yourself to gain insight into any areas where you may be struggling. Once you identify the issues, create a plan to address the issues you can control and work on letting go of the ones you cannot.
- Utilize social supports as needed. Consider planning a virtual coffee break or lunch hour with colleagues or other educators. During these sessions, you might share strategies that are or are not working, talk about what you’re cooking or watching on Netflix, and experience a much-needed sense of community.
- Create a routine that includes getting up at a regular time, then getting ready and dressed for the day, and following a work schedule. Incorporate into your day some physical movement, as well as some breaks to connect with others.
- Remember that, as adults, we can be the best guides for how our students and children will do. They are watching and listening to us, so when we take care of ourselves, we’re modeling how they can take care of themselves, too.
- Be safe and follow the latest public health recommendations related to hygiene and protective equipment if you must go to the school or into the community for teaching supplies.
Administrators can consider the following strategies to support the well-being of their staff:
- Prioritize the physical safety of the entire school community when making decisions related to re-opening the school or holding any in-person events. Ensure the physical safety of all of your staff by following the latest public health recommendations related to hygiene and protective equipment, minimizing exposure as much as possible. Make sure that any staff on the school grounds or conducting school business are provided with the equipment, policies, and enforcement tools they need to maximize their physical safety.
- Check in with your staff both collectively and individually. Encourage them to take time during the school day to manage their stress and take care of themselves and their families. Identify and distribute resources for staff who may need additional screening, assessment, and/or treatment for stress, mental health issues, or secondary traumatic stress symptoms. Many mental health resources are now available via tele-health platforms. Identify a range of resources that you can provide for your staff.
- Consider virtual professional development sessions that promote positive ways to cope with stress, and that help staff to understand the signs of secondary traumatic stress and the ways to prevent and address it. Offer wellness activities and promote routine health care and safety.
- Validate your staff members’ concerns about their students. Communicate your district’s plan for identifying students who need to be located, for helping families who need internet access or hotspots, and for reaching students who may need additional services during this time. It’s important for staff to understand the expectations around their roles in
reaching students as well as the limits of their responsibilities, and what other supportive methods and resources are available.
- Create opportunities for staff to connect to one another, through peer check-ins or using professional development time to reflect and process.