As more and more people in the US, including teachers, get vaccinated, schools are reopening or planning to reopen soon. While this is great news for everyone, it’s important to note that this has been a very hard year. The lockdowns, the constant stream of worrying news about the pandemic, and the uncertainty we all lived with have definitely taken a toll on us.
With schools reopening in person, school shootings become top of mind again as something to prepare for and work to prevent. Teachers, administrators, parents, and students have to be on the lookout for early signs of a violent act.
We sat down with Dr. Amy Salvo, Director of Social Emotional Learning & Support at the Lincoln County R-III School District in Missouri to find out what we can all do to prepare for getting back to in-person learning and to make sure that our schools are a safe environment.
How Can Teachers Support Their Students as They Come Back to In-Person Learning?
Being away from teachers and peers for such a long time has definitely had an impact on students’ well-being and mental health. Teachers are on the front lines in making them feel comfortable in school and in addressing their concerns and issues.
“I believe it is imperative that all educators put students’ well-being and mental health above all else. It is important for schools to create an emotionally safe environment that provides students with an opportunity to have a voice and to build relationships and connections with others,” says Dr. Salvo.
“Having a systematic approach to building strong connections with every student is equally important, as it will help prevent students from feeling isolated. All students desire connection and belonging. I strongly believe that this emotional connection has to be the priority and come before focusing on academics. Every teacher needs to take the time to make students the priority,” she adds.
We are, therefore, looking at a reversal of focus. While it’s true that the academic part of our students’ education has been impacted, educators’ first priority should be the emotional well-being and the security of their students.
How can educators offer the support their students need? Dr. Salvo offers some valuable pieces of advice: “To support students and help reduce their stress levels, teachers can create predictability and consistency within the classroom. Stress can be heightened when faced with the unknown.”
She adds: “I would be remiss if I didn’t say that teachers are going to need support as well. Many are feeling overwhelmed and we need to have resources and support for the well-being of all.”
What Warning Signs Can Teachers Look for in Students?
A WHO report cautions that violence against children has grown exponentially during the pandemic. Exposure to violence breeds violence, so educators have an even more important role in helping to mitigate the risk of school shootings.
To prevent school shootings and other violent incidents, teachers should be vigilant of any student behavior changes and communicate any concerns to the administration and to the school counselors.
According to Dr. Salvo, some potential warning signs that teachers can spot in their students are:
- Social withdrawal
- Excessive feelings of isolation
- Excessive feelings of rejection
- Expression of violence in writings and drawings
- Threats of violence
- Feeling bullied
You can read more about the warning signs of youth violence here.
What Type of Training Can Districts Provide for Teachers to Help them Watch for Warning Signs in Students?
Teachers and school administrators face an even more difficult task now. So it’s important to make sure that they are prepared for it and that they know how to tackle youth violence warning signs in a way that keeps them and their students safe.
Dr. Salvo says that to help schools be safer, we need both outside collaborative training from local law enforcement and mental health training.
“In my opinion, training educators about trauma, and helping them become trauma-responsive, was important even before the pandemic. It is now vital. Schools need to be more than places to learn reading, writing, and math. They need to be safe places where students can learn to become the best version of themselves and get the support and help that they may need,” she says.
“School Safety Starts from Within,” an article by Thomas Armstrong, puts it best: “Mental health interventions are designed to improve the internal psychological world of students so they are less apt to engage in violence and better able to handle the stress that accompanies incidents of trauma.”
You can read more about social-emotional learning and how it can help us mitigate school violence risks through CASEL.
At Guard911, we understand that educators and school administrators should be more empowered to tackle the difficult tasks ahead of them. We are proud to provide them with an all-in-one solution that offers comfort, peace of mind, and a link to fast outside help.
Contact Guard911 today to learn more about how our apps can help in an emergency. Our team is here to answer your questions. (618) 973-9174.