The following are a few trauma-aware resources for helping students during both distance learning and (fingers crossed) in person learning when schools reopen.

What we know now during COVID 19 is that trauma in students’ homes is being exacerbated: Greater family dysfunctions, alcoholism, addictions, poverty, divorce, domestic abuse, emotional abuse, neglect…and the list goes on. Additionally, students are lonely, afraid, angry, and bored.

Trauma research is clear that students who have a safe way to share the trauma in their lives and have their feelings acknowledged will not suffer the same long-term effects of that trauma as students who have suffered in silence. In essence, you cannot heal what you cannot reveal. If there ever was a moment for teachers to do what is right for students who are suffering, the time is now.

As with any time a student has been vulnerable in their writing, responding to what students have revealed is crucial. “That sounds hard” or “I have felt that way at times too” are all-purpose responses to many kinds of trauma shares.

Worry Jar/ I Need Jar to Unearth Student Fears and Needs

Students have a lot to contend with during COVID (and 70% have Adverse Childhood Experiences to contend with all of the time). It is great to have a place to share and keep those fears.

The Worry Jar is a good place for students to place those worries and have the teacher respond. These are private slide decks in my classroom that students type into. I respond to every item they put in their jars. For their worries, I acknowledge their worries and promise to keep them safe until students are spurred into action. For their needs, I acknowledge those needs and if it is within my power, try to address those needs. Mostly, I respond to what students put into their jars because worries and needs just first need to be heard. Ask yourself, how would you feel right now if someone asked you about your worries and needs and then really listened?

Prompts to Create Connection

4+ sentences allow for students to really share.

Putting responses into text boxes helps traumatized brains combat overwhelm.

I’d give 5 or so prompts in one assignment. I’m giving a larger list here as a resource.

Student Wellness Check-in Prompts for (COVID-19 times)

What my day looked like before Shelter in Place/ COVID-19 (4 sentences):
What my day looks like now (4 sentences):

How I’m feeling/ what I’m thinking about right now (4 sentences):
This is really revealing for students’ states of mind. It is this and the previous prompt that I really try to respond to the student about in addition to having the counselor get in contact with them.
What I can appreciate about myself, my talents, my personality, my interests, or my behaviors right now (4 sentences): 
Students seem to love to think about this one. It is a positive reframe and focuses on the individual’s resilience.
What I’m looking forward to/  what I’ll appreciate more/ what I’ll take more advantage of when the Shelter in Place/ COVID-19 is over (4 sentences):
Something I want my teacher to know about doing school work or my living conditions or what I need right now (4 sentences): These are important clues to student overwhelm. If the majority of students are feeling overwhelm and that the schoolwork is too much–it is too much.

Personal History Prompts

What do you know about this history of your grandparents and parents? If you don’t know anything, tell me why: (4 sentences)
Just a note about the above prompt–it doesn’t traumatize students to talk about families they don’t know about or missing relatives. It traumatizes students if they don’t talk about it.
What is your most fun memory of something you did or something that happened when you were little/ younger? (4 sentences)
Make note of students who don’t remember anything from when they were little. Trauma can affect our ability to remember.
What makes you unique in your family or unique among all other people? (4 sentences)

The odds of each of us being born are 1 in 400 trillion or more. That means that you were supposed to be born in this world, right now. You are unique, so you were born for a reason. What is your guess about were YOU born to do in the world that 400 trillion other people couldn’t do (at least in the way that you could do it?) (4 sentences):
What is your belief about how children should be raised? (4 sentences):
I’m looking for any huge discrepancies between what students experience and what is happening in their homes now.
Tell me a story from your past, when you were 3, 5, 7 or any age. Tell me either: a funny story, a sad story, an entertaining story, or a story that really reveals your family or your past: (10 sentences): Students need 10 sentences to get out a full story on this one. These are incredibly revealing, funny, heart-breaking.

General Self-Reflection and Coping Skills Prompts:

Four words that I live by are… and WHY those words (example: Honesty, excitement, creativity, caring…) 4 sentences:    
I couldn’t imagine living without…(4 sentences):
This will give you an idea about what the student loves and how to work that into future assignments. Or just to acknowledge who or what the student loves.
What does unconditional love look like for you? (4 sentences)
Describe people in your life who genuinely support you, and whom you can genuinely trust. (4 sentences)
Are these people in this student’s life now? Why or why not? What does it mean if these are not the people that the student is sheltered in place with right now?
When I’m in pain — physical or emotional — the kindest thing I can do for myself is… (4 sentences)
I love student answers to this one. It would make a great Zoom conversation, or, even better–a great classroom conversation in person.
What’s surprised you the most about your life or life in general? (4 sentences):
I love student answers to this one. It would make a great Zoom conversation, or, even better–a great classroom conversation in person.
Write about two things that you were anxious about in the past that turned out okay in the end.  (4 sentences):
Huge. Students need this reassurance when so much of their lives is out of their control right now.
Write the words you most need to hear. 
Pay attention to these. These are the words that we as teachers need to write at the end of feedback on every assignment.

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