I’ve done a considerable amount of reading on trauma informed teaching over the last two weeks.  It is very relevant and pertinent given our new realities.

As a writer and reflective practitioner, I’ve been writing down my thoughts and connecting together my readings, reflections, classroom experiences, and feedback with students. [I keep a journal for each class I teach, along with a personal teaching journal where I write about issues such as this]…

I’ve adapted and adjusted my teaching to reflect what I’ve learned from my readings and reflective processes.  In this current state of affairs, trauma-informed teaching techniques have helped me re-frame what I want to teach in these final weeks of classes and HOW I want to teach it.

While different researchers and publications vary in their terminologies and factors to consider, I’ll summarize them here, along with how they apply to our teaching online during Covid-19.
buddha quote
Six things we should emulate in trauma-informed [online] teaching:

  • Show that you care.
    • How do students know that we’re human and care about more  than the content in our classes? It’s ok to show our humanity, compassion, understanding, and humility.
    • Be honest. We’re experiencing this transition and stress too.
    • Be transparent. Students want quality over quantity right now – explain the how and why of assignments and expectations… and if we cannot do that, then we shouldn’t assign it. In short,  we shouldn’t give them busy work.
    • When it comes to testing, what does our “testing” say about us and our perceptions of our students? The more restrictions we create [ test given at a certain time, timed tests, eliminating ‘cheating’ measures, etc.], the more barriers we create for our students [parents trying to fulfill the student role and keep their children safe, new work schedules, competing access to technology by multiple members of a household].  Perhaps we need to remove the restrictions and show our students that we respect and trust them enough to do the right thing. Or, we let them use the resources around them [notes, books, each other], just as we do in our own careers and lives.
  •  Be flexible.
    • Remind our students that in learning, the process is more important than the final outcome.
    • Deadlines should be more like guidelines.  Our students are CNA’s now working 12 hour shifts. We have students in the reserves who are setting up field hospitals in Detroit. Many others are working in “essential” worker roles. They deserve a break from us.
    • Life is not what it was 6 weeks ago. Everything has changed, as should our calendars and expectations.
    • Remember that synchronous class meetings can cause more stress, as schedules are no longer what they were…. is a synchronous class necessary? Is it required? Could it be optional? Are we giving students multiple options and opportunities to achieve the outcome? [see next point].
  • Give students choices.
    • We have no control over so much of life right now, so give students something to exercise control over… Give them choices on what to write on, which problem to solve, how to respond. The same can be said for attending Zoom meetings, give multiple options, different times to meet, get answers to questions, etc.
  • Allow for reflection.
    • We all need to process all of the changes we’re experiencing. How are students reflecting on the changes, online learning, transitions, and course content in our courses? I’ve created journal entries for students to provide feedback and reflection on learning online, course lessons, and life under Covid-19’s stay home/quarantine expectations. I’ve adjusted some lessons based on the information and feedback I’ve received.
  • Be a source of support.
    • We all need support right now.
    • It’s ok for Zoom class gatherings to be social and cathartic, and not on course content.  This is their support network. It’s ours too.
    • Students are experiencing different things. How can they share with each other for the peer support they may need?
    • How do we make sure our students know how to reach mental health resources available via NMC, if they need it? Making links to these resources in Moodle can help us acknowledge that the struggle is real AND that it’s ok to reach out for help.
  • Create a safe space.
    • Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Our students cannot learn if they don’t have their basic needs met. We may not be able to [directly] provide them food and shelter, but we can provide them a safe place and respite in our virtual classrooms.
    • We cannot know what students have gone “home” to.  College was the safe space for them. What can we do to keep it that way?
    • I don’t have all of the answers on how to do this, but I do know that listening and empathy is key. And I know to refer students to others who may be able to connect them to resources (if needed) better than I can.

The current environment is stressful for everyone.  I hope re-framing trauma informed teaching in this way has been helpful.  We’re all navigating these uncharted waters together. We all have more questions than answers.  And it’s ok.  We’re learning together.

I welcome feedback and discussion on these topics and thoughts. Feel free to respond here or message me at cwarner@nmc.edu.