Equity And Diversity Newsletter

Elementary Edition April 2020

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A Trauma-Informed Approach to Teaching Through Coronavirus

Teaching Tolerance

Experts from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network share their recommendations for educators supporting students during the COVID-19 crisis. Schools in Springfield closed their doors to slow the spread of the coronavirus like schools all over the nation. Teaching Tolerance reached out to the communities to learn what support was needed at this time. Among the most common responses was information for trauma-informed practices to support students over the coming weeks and months. For guidance, Teaching Tolerance reached out to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network with a series of questions. A group of researchers, psychologists and educators were quick to respond. We’re grateful to Laura Danna, Dr. Jane Halladay Goldman, Dr. Jen Maze, Dr. George Ake and Dr. Isaiah Pickens for their answers, and we hope their recommendations offer some much-needed support during this difficult time.

As some school districts have just closed and others have been closed for a while, classes have shifted from the classroom to home. This is a change that could be a challenge for students and educators. From a trauma-informed standpoint, what do educators need to know as they navigate this transition? Establishing a routine and maintaining clear communication is crucial. Doing so helps to maintain a sense of psychological safety-a sense that manages stress and prompts connectedness. It is important not to assume that students understand that their routine is changing due to current events. It will reduce the student’s stress and increase their confidence if important adults in their lives are capable of taking care of them.

Moving to remote learning and having fewer direct interactions can make assignments feel more overwhelming and daunting. Break directions down into smaller bites when necessary and encourage students to ask clarifying questions even if it appears they understand. Encourage students to lead the way in sharing what they understand and do not understand regarding the current situation. You can do this by asking open-ended questions, such as, “How are you feeling about not being in school?” Remember relationships and well-being should take priority over their assignment. As we shift to distance learning, educators will need to actively focus on maintaining attitudes of inclusivity. Now more than ever, students should feel valued and welcome regardless of their background or identity. When people are facing stress and difficult life circumstances, it can particularly affect three areas: a sense of safety, feelings of connectedness and feelings of hope. In each of these areas, educators can make an impact.

Teaching Tolerance has a few suggestions on these three areas:

Sense of Safety

A sense of safety is the belief that your needs—and the needs of those you care about—will be met. Reaching out provides space and encourages students to connect with another student, trusted adult or counselor to talk to about their safety concerns.

  • Offer students a way to connect if there is something that they need help with or are worried about.
  • Encourage students to talk to friends or family members on the phone.

  • Help students plan some virtual playdates to distract them from their worries.

  • Recommend or include in lesson plans and packets some fun, free activities that kids can do at home. Remember that students may be dealing with many different home life situations while trying to maintain their academics, and there are many reasons they may be embarrassed to share about why they can’t complete assignments. Educators should communicate that, regardless of challenges, students’ efforts are appreciated.


Connectedness refers to having relationships with others who can understand and support you. As we are practicing social distancing and have closed most public places, educators will need to get creative to help students feel connected. To foster a sense of connectedness, educators can: Make time to ask students about something fun they are doing right now.

  • Greet students by name and create a touch-free or virtual routine (similar to a handshake, a hug or a high five) to invite connection, either online or at meal pick-up.

  • Plan activities through the use of web-conferencing sites that allow students to see, hear and interact with each other and their teacher.

  • Talk directly about the importance of connecting with others.

  • Incorporate space for play and fun activities into online lesson plans or take-home packets.


Hope is the expectation that everything will work out and the feeling that things will be alright. Right now, many people may be feeling discouraged, hopeless or angry. Students may be disappointed in missing out on sports, competition, performances and other important rituals of the spring semester.

To encourage a sense of hope, educators can:

  • Have students connect with someone in their family or community to ask a person they respect how they stayed hopeful in troubled times. Encourage students to get fresh air and to move when possible.

  • Let students know that people find help in different ways, including through spiritual beliefs and practices, and encourage students to discuss things that bring them hope.

As we follow the guidelines Teaching Tolerance has suggested let’s remember that in other countries, rates of domestic violence and child abuse have increased during the COVID-19 crisis. Stress and increased isolation are risk factors for abuse. Families experiencing difficult financial issues or job loss during this time might be especially at risk. But all families will be under increased stress and isolation with varying levels of support and resources.

For more information about child trauma and child traumatic stress, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network has many resources to help educators and caretakers better understand the impact, consequences, and resilience of children and families exposed to trauma. This page is a good place to start.

“A Trauma-Informed Approach to Teaching Through Coronavirus.” Teaching Tolerance, www.tolerance.org/magazine/a-trauma-informed-approach-to-teaching-through-coronavirus.

Did You Know?

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You Are The Greatest!

We are in uncertain trying times. Nevertheless, it is not every day that you see teachers and staff that miss seeing their students smiling faces so much that they would have parades through the school's attendance areas; just to wave to parents and students.

In addition to that, you wonderful Springfield Public Schools educators are handing out meals to students and making sure their educational and emotional needs are being met. As a community we want you to know how much we appreciate and honor all that you do.

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Library Coner

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How Full Is Your Bucket For Kids

How Full Is Your Bucket For Kids is told through the story of a boy who learns a valuable “bucket filling” metaphor and watches it come to life as the day unfolds,

Each of us has an invisible bucket. When our bucket is full, we feel great. When it’s empty, we feel awful. Yet most children (and many adults) don’t realize the importance of having a full bucket throughout the day.

In How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids, Felix begins to see how every interaction in a day either fills or empties his bucket. Felix then realizes that everything he says or does to other people fills or empties their buckets as well.

Follow along with Felix as he learns how easy it can be to fill the buckets of his classmates, teachers and family members. and that filling someone else’s bucket also fills his own.

What's In Your Tool Box?

“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” —Scott Adams

49 Ways to Create a Tidal Wave of Kindness in School

Mulvahill, Elizabeth. “49 Ways to Create a Tidal Wave of Kindness in School.” WeAreTeachers, 9 Nov. 2018, www.weareteachers.com/49-ways-to-create-a-tidal-wave-of-kindness-in-schools