Students who have experienced trauma need a safe and caring adult to help intervene when they respond to some emotional trigger in the classroom. In their book Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom, authors Kristin Souers and Pete Hall detail six communication steps that are helpful when addressing student in crisis (pp. 79-82):
- Listen. While it may be difficult to not immediately interject in a heated moment, it is best to listen carefully to what a student in crises is telling you. Often the student is conveying an important message about what triggered the response, whether it is exhaustion, prior bad experiences, a belief system, preconceived notions, or fear.
- Reassure. A student in crisis needs to know that his/her perspective is important.
- Validate. A validation is an acknowledgement that you hear the student. A validation is not an acceptance or approval of the student behavior.
- Respond. Respond by explaining your observation of the incident. A response is not a time to defend your position, but it is a time to share your perception of the situation.
- Repair. A repair could be simply expressing that you are sorry the student is having the experience at this time. If you believe you somehow caused a trigger response, a heartfelt apology may be in order.
- Resolve. A resolution is an opportunity to work with the student to develop a new way of behaving in the classroom so another trigger response is not exhibited. This may require behavioral changes on the part of the student, the teacher, or both.
As you plan for your week ahead, think about how you can partner with students to create a safe, caring environment that will allow for positive and productive classroom outcomes. You and your students will benefit greatly!
While many students will find a SPIDER WEB discussion to be an enjoyable break from the traditional classroom structure, some students may have trouble navigating the new paradigm. In her book The Best Class You Never Taught: How SPIDER WEB Discussion Can Turn Students Into Learning Leaders, Alexis Wiggins identifies two types of students who may have difficulty adjusting to the new classroom dynamic: students how are shy and students who are superstars. Shy students, while they may have great insight to share, are often more comfortable with their thoughts and will avoid participating in discussion. Superstars often have the urge to share every thought and do their best to dominate discussion. So how do classroom teachers help students who are shy and students who are superstars become part of the larger, collaborative discussion? Wiggins suggests the following (pp. 70-91):
- Openly address the issue of the difficulties faced by both the shy and superstar students. Keep reminding everyone of the goal: to have a deep, interesting discussion as a team.
- Give all students a few minutes to quietly reflect on the topic and write things down prior to discussion. This will help all students, whether shy or superstar, focus their thinking and provide them with some discussion points.
- Provide quality feedback based upon the rubric. The rubric is there to help students learn what is important in a collaborative team. Let all students know how they are doing and provide ways to improve.
- Keep trying. Patience, persistence, and self-assessment will help develop student skills and yield a balanced discussion.
As you implement SPIDER WEB discussion in your classroom, be aware of those students who might find the non-traditional structure to be uncomfortable and provide supports necessary to improve participation. Your students will appreciate your efforts, and you will all learn much about one another in the process!