Teachers and students are now facing unprecedented levels of grief as they enter the third year after the pandemic. An estimated 1.5 million childrenWorldwide, COVID-19 claimed the lives of a caregiver within the first 14 month of the pandemic. 120,000 of themIt is not uncommon to grieve the death of a parent, grandparent or caretaker in the United States. This number is comparable to the entire PopulationHartford, Conn. These losses are not evenly distributed. Due to systemic health inequalities, black and Indigenous students and other students are at higher risk of being bereaved.
Teachers and young people are also at risk of losing their jobs. Living lossesLoss can be caused by divorce, housing insecurity or foster care, as well as a familial fallout. Disenfranchised griefIs grief that is not socially and societally recognized, such as generational grieving and trauma related to inequity. Both types of grief are common in this pandemic. However, they are less easily tracked than those directly related to COVID-related deaths.
No matter what form it takes, grief can change the way you feel. Brain, body and behaviorLearning is affected by it. Grief-responsive teaching, a pedagogical approach that integrates science and stories about grief into practical practices for implementation in classrooms, is a response. It offers strategies to help students deal with this time of collective grief.
For grief-responsive teaching in the classroom consider a tiered approach. environmental, Interpersonal, Curricular Structures that are present in your learning environment. How you might incorporate grief-responsive practices into every level to support students well-being.
1. Consider the classroom environment. It doesn’t matter if you are 8 or 80 years old, grieving and losing someone close can make you feel helpless, afraid, and out-of-control. No longer do our routines include the close connections we once had. The same goes for the hidden regulatorsThe things that we once valued (the senses that our routines and relationships have that go unnoticed until they are gone), such as the sound of laughter from parents, teachers thoughtful penmanship or the soothing sounds of favorite music in the home. Offering school opportunities that give students a sense routine, autonomy, and choice is a great way to help students recover from an altered world.
How can you create and sustain a sense routine with your students? What ways can you give students choice through differentiated instruction and project-based learning? Reading assignments? Community-building activities? What extent and how do you discuss metacognition with students in relation to learning and subjective experiences in the classroom? Are they able to influence the structure of class time and assignments?
These questions should be asked in the context of loss. Also, consider your classroom goals and plans to see how you can improve collaboration to empower students to voice their concerns. Find ways to add activities, engagement strategies, and opportunities for dependable relationship-building into students routines.
2. Increase interpersonal support Connection is our greatest defense against trauma, and it is necessary in the face loss. The reality is that vicarious traumaIt is important to remember that teachers, even if they are experiencing loss and grief, do not have the sole responsibility of supporting students through times of grief. While educators may not be trained as therapists, this does not mean that they cannot provide guidance or mentoring that has a lasting impact on students going through adversity.
As a grieving student representative, you can be oriented and explore ways to increase student-teacher connection. This includes building strong relationships and communicating with grieving students about your interest in their well being. It also means facilitating further connection between students and classmates, fellow students, colleagues, students and members within your local community. You can increase students’ sense of connectedness by increasing their network. perceived support availabilityPsychologists use the term “supportiveness” to describe the feeling that others in one’s circle will help one if they need it. This is a powerful indicator of one’s ability to cope with loss and integrate it.
3. Take care of the curricula. No matter what subject you teach loss and mortality can arise in curriculum content. It’s possible to not know if your students are dealing with loss and grief, or the details of their stories.
Instead, consider how to encourage students to engage with potentially difficult materials by providing content warnings or alternative texts that they can choose to engage with on a challenge-by-choice basis. Students should be allowed to share their lived experiences in the learning environment. However, students shouldn’t be forced to disclose. Further trauma. It is important to remember that both culturally responsive teaching as well as grief-responsive teaching must be intertwined. Students identities and contexts can influence their orientation towards and. Expressions aboutLoss and grief. Consider how literature or lived experience can help you to normalize grief and loss.
Students who are grieving in Western society, which is a death-denialist culture, may feel marginalized by the inability of many adults to help them in times of grief. These three tenets can help you to bring up the topic of grief in school. They also provide insight into how grief might impact your curricular and relationship strategies at each level. This will help you to de-stigmatize loss and learn from it in this moment of collective challenge.