Although a Covid Trauma Response can look a myriad of ways, we will certainly see some of these issues arise in our students after spring break! Here I'll outline what a Covid Trauma Response may look like in school!
Me on March 12, 2021: "Have a great spring break! See you in two weeks!"
Student: "That's what you said last year..."
This hit me hard. Although I'd certainly been feeling anxious about going on Spring Break (I mean, I've been burned before!) I didn't realize how much it was going to affect my students.
As we wrapped up our final rehearsal for our spring musical on Friday before spring break, students were reluctant to leave, clearly worried that we'd end up on another 6 month hiatus from school. And who could blame them? This time last year we'd said our good-byes, prepared to see each other in only two short weeks, and then...
Well, I still haven't seen some of my graduated students since last year. Students I had been close to for most of their high school experience.
Though I know all kids are struggling, arguably, our high school students have had the most difficult time during the pandemic. They have lost so many rites of passage.
Winter formal? Gone.
Graduation ceremony? Gone.
Grad parties? Gone.
Sports games and pep rallies? Gone.
Live shows, assemblies, awards nights... All gone.
And this just scratches the surface of the things students have lost this year. And though there is a light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine rounding the corner (thank god!!!!) we aren't out of the woods yet.
Our high school students who once eagerly approached time off school to rest, see friends, and work extra hours to save for college have now been left with a distrust of our current school year, feeling constantly like the only normalcy they know, an apocalyptic style daily school schedule, will also be ripped from them. They've also been burned before.
I left my rehearsal on Friday realizing I didn't take the time I wanted or needed to truly say a sincere good-bye to my students. I got caught up in the rush of packing up before the break, and didn't acknowledge the collective fear and trauma my students were experiencing.
And that's the bottom line. Spring break is far from a break for kids this year. It's a collective trauma response and ongoing fear of impending doom with students experiencing the PTSD from their last year's experience. The empty grocery store shelves, loss of school, families losing their jobs, and social isolation from friends and grandparents has left students feeling apprehensive and afraid.
Although this entire year has been a challenge for our kids, this time of year is bringing up a lot of past hurt and fear that has been largely left unprocessed. So as you take your break, whether you are truly living it or also sitting apprehensively waiting for March 29, remember your students are likely also reliving the pain of last year. Reach out, even though it's your break. A simple message on your online classroom will be enough! Acknowledge their collective trauma, name it, normalize it, and rationalize it. They may not even fully understand why they feel as anxious as they do right now!
And when we get back to school, consider amplifying the grace you've been granting to students all year. They will likely need a week to believe we're really back to school... And then offer yourself that same grace. You're reliving the uncertainty and PTSD too...