According to data from National College Health Assessment II, New School students experience high levels of feeling overwhelmed, hopeless and exhausted, with 75% of New School students having experienced overwhelming anxiety, and 58% having felt so depressed it was difficult to function. Trauma makes it harder to plan, focus, remember and learn. Addressing issues of stress, anxiety, and well-being helps students learn and feel they belong. Rather than try to assess students’ individual histories of trauma, assume the probability of trauma in your classroom and proceed accordingly.
As you proceed with designing and facilitating your course, try to imagine what it is like to be a student right now. Consider how you can use your classroom as a place for students to find agency and be heard, in a world and moment where they are dealing with dislocation and uncertainty.
Trauma-informed teaching is about improving classroom environments. Principles for Trauma-informed Teaching and Learning include:
- Physical, Emotional, Social, and Academic Safety
- While we recognize we can’t guarantee an individual’s physical, emotional, social and academic safety, trauma-informed teaching cultivates an environment where students will feel comfortable and willing to challenge themselves in making and learning from mistakes, learning from each other, and be willing to be open to new and different perspectives from their own.
- As you create your community agreements, ask students what would help them feel comfortable in your classroom and how they want to proceed if agreements are broken.
- Trustworthiness and Transparency
- Make expectations clear, ensure consistency in practice, and maintain appropriate boundaries.
- Support and Connection
- Individuals and groups are connected with appropriate peer and professional resources to help them succeed academically, personally, and professionally.
- Collaboration and Mutuality
- Opportunities exist to provide input, share power, and make decisions. Individuals and groups act as allies rather than as adversaries to reach common goals.
- Empowerment, Voice, and Choice
- Individuals and groups are empowered to make choices and to develop confidence and competence.
- Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues
- Individuals and groups strive to be responsive to historical, cultural, and gender issues in order to respect one another’s diverse experiences and identities.
- Resilience, Growth, and Change
- Strengths and resilience are emphasized over deficiencies and pathology. Feedback is provided to convey optimism and to facilitate growth and change.
Further Resources on Trauma-Informed Teaching
- View this webinar on trauma-informed teaching and learning from Mays Imad
- Also from Mays Imad, this June 3, 2020, article: Leveraging the Neuroscience of Now. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2020/06/03/seven-recommendations-helping-students-thrive-times-trauma
- Visit these slides on trauma-aware online teaching
- Read the Trauma-Informed Teaching and Learning blog