When thinking of the trauma that our students, teachers and schools encounter, the news in the recent months has a perfect storm of contributing factors: the continued killings of people of color in the United States and Canada, made even more traumatic by COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and the economic upheaval wrought by it.
For the education community, the question in front of us remains critical: How do we respond in a way that utilizes education to promote a better world?
It is imperative for all in education to think about how we reopen our schools in accordance with CDC and local health guidelines, safely for our teachers and students, and in an operational manner of social distancing within our school buildings, but also with a trauma-informed and inclusive approach. We need to think about healing alongside learning―and loss―in all its forms. This means looking at trauma-informed strategies for all in our schools alongside the ability to create spaces for students of color to be seen, affirmed and feel safe.
Our newest podcast, as part of IB Voices, aims to help. In this five-episode mini-series, we’ve brought in experts on trauma-informed practices from Canada and the United States; school leaders and principals experienced in schooling with post-disaster schooling; and multiple perspectives and expertise on strategies for reopening our school doors.
It’s difficult to believe that it was only a few months ago that we in the education community had to close our school doors to protect our students and school communities from the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and make a hard pivot to digitized learning―all in a matter of weeks. Soon enough, COVID-19 exposed a technological and economic divide for students and families, while our school leaders and educators did their best to support learning in remote spaces. Simultaneously, we saw the differences in realities in our healthcare systems from New York City to the Navajo Nation as we became acutely aware how non-discriminatory COVID-19 is and how our communities and students of color are being disproportionately affected.
As we adjusted to this reality on a global scale, prepared for virtual graduations and closed the school year the best we could. We then collectively watched, were outraged by and mourned the unjust violent deaths of too many people of color―George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Riah Milton and Chantel Moore, to name a few―and saw the United States ignite to demand that Black, Indigenous and people of color be seen and treated as human beings with a right to breathe, either from the conditions that exasperated the spread of COVID-19 or when dealing with law enforcement.
We explore these issues in earnest through the following five-part conversation:
In our first episode, What is a trauma-informed approach?, we speak with Dr. Kathleen Minke, executive director of the association of school psychologists, and Dr. Eric Rossen, author of Supporting and Educating Traumatized Students: A Guide for School-Based Professionals to help us define what is trauma-informed strategies and schooling.
Our second episode, Racism—The pandemic that never went away, is a conversation with Jamilah Pitts, an educator, consultant, and contributing author to Teaching Tolerance. Our conversation addresses how “teaching as activism, teaching as care” can help us all better support students of color and ensure our classrooms and schools are spaces of and for anti-racism.
Episode three, The Age of Overwhelm, features best-selling author Laura van Dernoot Lipsky on how to support our students, families, and especially our teachers in the “Age of Overwhelm”.
Episode four, Post-disaster schooling, brings principals and superintendents (David Weiss, Brandi Herbert, and John Wray) with significant experience in post-disaster schooling to discuss their experiences and strategies on school reopening.
In our fifth and final episode, The student perspective, we conclude in a conversation with IB graduate Shreya Mahasenan as she speaks to what is important as we collectively recover to our school settings at some point in the future.
We look forward to sharing these conversations with all school leaders and educators around the world, and we hope the series is helpful in creating a safe, loving and inclusive return to school.
The podcast host, Robert Kelty, Senior Development Manager, joined the IB this March with 20 years of experience in education. Starting as an educator in Crownpoint, New Mexico in the heart of the Navajo Nation, Robert has served as a principal, superintendent, senior manager for Teach For America, and as an elected official as the Coconino County Superintendent of Schools, where he worked with all levels of government and six indigenous nations. Most recently, Robert led Puente de Hozho Elementary School, a Navajo immersion and Spanish/English bilingual program, through the Primary Years Programme and co-coordinated Arizona’s first K-12 IB continuum. Robert received his doctorate from Northern Arizona University (NAU) and was awarded an honorary doctorate from NAU as well. He is a former Teacher of the Year in the state of Arizona.
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