Grief engulfed the learning environment. Here’s what can help (opinion)

As teachers and students enter the third year of the pandemic, we are facing unprecedented levels of grief in the learning environment. An estimated 1.5 million children Worldwide a caregiver was lost to COVID-19 in just the first 14 months of the pandemic – more than 120,000 of these children Grieving the death of a caring parent or grandparent in the United States alone. This number, for comparison, is equal to the total population Hartford, Connecticut, and those losses are not evenly distributed. Black, Indigenous, and other students of color face higher rates of bereavement due to systemic health disparities.

Meanwhile, young people and educators face forms of loss that go beyond physical death. livelihood losses Forms of loss such as those associated with divorce, housing insecurity, custody or family downfall. deprived sadness It is grief that is not socially or societally recognized, such as intergenerational grief and trauma associated with inequality. Both forms of grief are pervasive in this pandemic, albeit in ways that are less traceable than those directly related to COVID-related death.

Regardless of its form, grief changes the brain, body, and behavior, which inevitably affects learning. In response, Grief Responsive Teaching—a pedagogical and personalized approach to education that integrates science and grief stories into actionable classroom practices—offers strategies to assist students in this time of societal grief.

To incorporate grief-responsive teaching into the classroom, consider a tiered approach: Think environmentalAnd Personal, And curriculum The structures you play in your learning environment and how you can inculcate practices that respond to grief at each level to better support the well-being of students – as well as your own.

1. Consider the classroom environment. Whether we are eight or eighty years old, feeling sad and lost can induce feelings of helplessness, fear, and a lack of control. Our routine no longer includes the connections we used to be close to. Nor “hidden regulators”“That we once valued (sensual components of our routines and relationships that might go unnoticed until they disappear, like the sound of a parent’s laughter, thoughtful, thoughtful calligraphy, or a sibling’s favorite music floating around the house). In the midst of a changing world, providing opportunity helps In a school that restores students a sense of routine, independence and choice to recover.

How can you actually create and reinforce a sense of routine with your students? In what ways do you offer choice to students through differentiated instruction, project-based learning, reading assignments, or community building activities? To what extent and in what ways do you think and talk about metacognition with students when dealing with learning and subjective experiences in the classroom? Do they have a say in how class time or assignments are organized?

In the context of loss, refer to these questions, as well as classroom plans and goals, to consider how to enhance collaboration to enable students to talk about their needs. Look for ways to add activities, engagement strategies, and opportunities to build dependable relationships into the students’ routine.

2. Enhance personal support. Communication is our greatest defense against trauma and essential in the face of loss. after the fact indirect shock It reminds us of the importance that teachers, who may experience grief and loss alongside their students, do not have the sole responsibility to support students in times of grief. Educators are not trained therapists, but that does not mean that as adults who are interested in young life, they cannot provide direction and guidance that carries meaning for life to students in adversity.

Orient yourself as a member of the grieving student “team” and think of ways to increase communication in the students’ lives. This means not only by building strong relationships with grieving students through direct communications about your concern for their well-being but also by facilitating enhanced communication between students, classmates, students, colleagues, students, and members of your local community. By increasing your students’ network, you reinforce their sense of ‘perceived availability of support’, “a term psychologists use to describe the sense that people in one’s circle would be supportive if they needed to turn to them for help. This, in and of itself, is a strong indicator of an individual’s ability to deal with and integrate experiences of loss.”

3. Attending curricula. No matter what subject you are studying, loss and death may arise in the curriculum content. You may not know if the students in your class are actively grappling with grief and loss, and you do not need to know the details of the students’ stories in order to respond to the presence of grief at school.

Instead, consider how to support students’ interaction with potentially challenging material by offering content or alternative text warnings that they can handle on a ‘challenge by choice’ basis. Welcome students’ expressions of their lived experiences because they arise naturally in the learning environment but do not require or impose student disclosures, lest stress lead to further trauma. Keep in mind that culturally responsive teaching and grief responsive teaching must be intertwined, as students’ identities and contexts may influence their attitudes toward and expressions of Grief and loss. Finally, consider how expressions of loss and grief are normalized, both through literature and about lived experience.

In Western society, which has traditionally been a culture of death denial, grieving students may feel ‘others’ because of the inability of many adults to know what to do or say in the face of bereavement. Draw out the topic of grief in school by looking at the three principles above and how grief can affect the student’s experience, as well as curricular and relational strategies at each level. Doing so provides a starting point for removing the stigma of loss — and learning from it — in this moment of collective challenge.

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