It's been more than 100 days since schools across the state had to close their doors and take learning online. A lot has happened during that time for so many students and their families.
"Are they eating? Are they being taken care of? You know, a lot of times schools are safe places and are they not feeling safe?" said Janine Menard, an elementary school counselor for the Tolleson Elementary School District.
Those are just some of the questions that keep Menard up at night. Her students and their families facing hardships like unemployment, social isolation, or illness because of COVID-19.
"Different kinds of abuse," Menard said. "I also worry that some of my older students are being caretakers for little kids."
That is why "trauma-sensitive teaching" is included multiple times in the Arizona Department of Education's "Roadmap for Reopening Schools." It is an approach to student behavior rooted in support rather than punishment.
"You assume that students and families have already suffered trauma, so you go in with a lens of, 'I need to be sensitive because whatever is triggering them right now, it's coming from a place of trauma,'" said Menard. "You have to embed it in the culture. It really needs to be like, such a big focus, but you say that and everything needs to be a big focus."
The Phoenix Elementary School District is already focused on a trauma-sensitive approach, laying out its recommendations during a board meeting earlier this month.
"We are all experiencing some level of stress and insecurity," said Meleika Wadley, the district's school social work and student support systems coordinator. "We know that when students are not emotionally well, it's hard for them to learn."
Part of the district's reopening recommendations include professional development for staff on the impact of COVID-19 and other trauma-sensitive topics. At least six campuses will be getting a second social worker and students will have access to a mental health therapist.
Wadley also recommends the 4 R's to bring this supportive approach home:
- Reassurance- tell your children everything you are doing to keep them safe.
- Keep a Routine.
- Do your best to Regulate your and your child's emotions
- Channel Resiliency
"We all have some internal resiliency and picking up on that resiliency, remembering we have that resiliency, we can get through this tough time," Wadley said.