5 Resources to Reflect on 2021

Teachers, congratulations on getting to the end of another long year. We all know that 2021…

By Hana Beach

Teachers, congratulations on getting to the end of another long year. We all know that 2021 was challenging, especially for educators. From the continued losses of the pandemic, to the struggles of going back to school, to the recent tragedy in Oxford, Michigan, students have experienced so much—and you have supported them through all of it. For our newsletter this week, we’ve gathered trauma-informed resources to help you and your students process the events of the year. We hope these resources help you take care of your students, your colleagues, and yourself.

Even when it feels like you don’t have the answers for your students, your consistent presence is powerful. 

Why It Matters: The routine of class and the availability of trusted, caring adults can help students process trauma. As a teacher, hold space for students in your class to decompress and remind your students that they are loved and valued. You can do this by:

  • Offering multiple pathways for students to express their emotions, including drawing, journaling, group conversation, and one-on-one check ins.
  • Having students write affirmations for each other.
  • Leading simple mindfulness and meditation exercises.

Extra Credit: Five Ways to Support Students Affected by Trauma

Restorative circles are powerful tools for hard conversations. 

Why It Matters: Born out of indigenous traditions from around the world, restorative circles are a way to facilitate conversation and be present in community. As students at MetWest High School in Oakland explain, circles allow every student to feel valued, seen, and heard. Here are some elements to a restorative circle.

  • Opening ceremony: Signal the official start of the circle by introducing topics and setting community norms
  • Talking piece: Choose an item to pass from person to person to facilitate equity of voice
  • Community agreements: Ensure that everyone can be honest and open without fear
  • Prompt or rounds: Questions or phrases that help guide the discussion
  • Closing ceremony: Thank everyone for contributing and bring closure to the discussion

Extra Credit: What Is a Restorative Justice Listening Circle and How to Use It

Respond proactively to students’ mental health needs by being prepared to recognize if someone needs extra support. 

Why It Matters: As a teacher, you have a unique perspective on the day-to-day mental wellness of your students. Within the support ecosystem of the school, that perspective is key in identifying students experiencing mental health struggles. Take these steps to keep up with your students’ wellbeing: 

  • Use daily check-ins to screen for students experiencing mental health concerns
  • Communicate with other school supports to share knowledge
  • Connect students with resources outside of your classroom

Extra Credit: 7 teacher tips for supporting students who’ve experienced trauma

Students can find power, community, and resilience through supporting one another.

Why It Matters: Getting support from peers can help students feel heard and connected to their community. Stepping up to advocate and be present for others can also help students find purpose during difficult times. Center student voice and leadership through: 

  • Organizing student-led support groups
  • Inviting students to share their perspective through art
  • Sharing examples of student activism

Extra Credit: It’s Been One Year Since I Led a Student Gun Protest. Are Things Better Now? 

As you care for your students, be sure to also take care of yourself. 

Why It Matters: Self-care is always important for teachers, but it’s especially crucial when you’re supporting students through a difficult time. In these moments, giving yourself the space to grieve and process is vital to your own mental health. Seek support through:

Extra Credit: ​​Teachers’ Mental Health Has Suffered in the Pandemic. Here’s How Districts Can Help

This year wasn’t easy, but we hope GM5 brought you useful resources and some much needed joy. We are excited to be in community with you and to do this hard work together. 

This year send GM5 to an educator, school leader, or parent looking to rethink high school in your community.