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The COVID-19 pandemic has left many of us with an overwhelming sense of trauma. Our lives, routines, relationships, and sense of “normal” have been shaken up and completely turned upside down.
I must also take note that I believe we cannot appropriately address the trauma of COVID-19 without also addressing the continuous trauma of racial injustice. The disproportionate effect of COVID-19 and continued racial injustices on the BIPOC community leaves adults with the responsibility to address two sources of trauma: the pandemic and injustice. As teachers are going back to school, the weight of the world can feel as if it rests heavily on our shoulders.
Of hundreds of art teachers surveyed in the AOEU Back to School 2020 Survey, 46% of art teachers said they were not comfortable returning to school, and 33% were unsure about their comfort level in returning to school. Acknowledging nearly 80% of art teachers are concerned and confused about their feelings regarding returning to school is evidence you are not alone in the way you feel. Because so many of us are feeling all of this at once, it actually has a name: collective trauma.
While trauma refers to a traumatic event that affects one person or a small group of people, “Collective trauma refers to the impact of a traumatic experience that affects and involves entire groups of people, communities, or societies.”
Living in a pandemic is a real-life example of collective trauma.
As teachers, from essentially creating a distance learning program overnight, to constantly worrying about the health and safety of ourselves and loved ones, we are all experiencing some level of collective trauma.
No matter what your school year looks like, our top focus is going to be to support the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) needs of ourselves and our students. This is a time for recovery, support, and connectedness in whatever way possible. We shouldn’t pretend everything is “normal”… because it’s not. By addressing how we are all dealing with what is happening around us, we can better learn where to find and offer appropriate support for our families and students.
According to our AOEU Back to School 2020 Survey, teachers’ number one area of importance this year is addressing SEL. Of art teachers’ responses, 53% have schools that are encouraging them to shift curricular focus to SEL. Not surprisingly, 82% of art teachers listed their number one concern as “Having difficulty connecting with my students.”
NEA Today reminds educators, “This isn’t just about academics and ‘catching up.’ School leaders must first rebuild safe spaces for students that will help them and educators navigate the trauma they’ve experienced. Students were cut off from friends. Other familiar faces—a favorite teacher, the bus driver who greeted them every morning, the counselor who helped them through the hard days, the cafeteria worker who served their lunch—were also suddenly absent from their daily lives.”
The evidence is clear. Our focus needs to be on supporting our own mental health and the SEL needs of our students. So, exactly how can we support the SEL needs and mental health of ourselves and our students?
There are going to be good days and not-so-good days as we all return to school. The rollercoaster of emotions over the past few months have been traumatic for us all. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel.
What concerns you most when it comes to supporting your students and dealing with trauma?
What SEL resources do you find most helpful?
Are you surprised by the data from our AOEU Back to School 2020 Survey?
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.