Our Education Blogger is a public school teacher with over a decade of experience. She’s an active NEA member and enjoys writing about her experiences in the classroom.
Speaking with students about traumatic topics can make any teacher uncomfortable. However, it is important to open up dialogue with students, especially when something distressing occurs. Our students are not immune to traumatic situations. Teachers play an important role in helping students process tragic events. Don’t shy away from talking to students about sad or scary situations. By speaking with your students, and having honest conversations, you send a message to your students that you care for them, support them, and will be available to them should they need you.
10 tips to remember before you begin talking about a difficult subject:
- Make parents aware you’ll be discussing the event in your classroom
- Find out what students know
- Listen to students
- Be as specific as possible, and clear up any misconceptions
- Answer questions with facts, and if you don’t know, don’t speculate
- Reassure students of their safety at school
- Be prepared with plenty of resources – limit graphic pictures and videos
- Talk about it – allow plenty of time for questions and discussion
- Keep it simple – mostly for elementary students
- It’s okay to get emotional – talk about why
After you’ve engaged your students in this emotional dialogue, don’t forget to take care of yourself. These conversations can wreak emotional havoc on you.
It’s okay to give yourself a break after your mentally exhausting discussions. Try to do things that will make you happy, lift your spirits, or have a positive impact. Avoid, or turn off, all sources of media . . . at least temporarily. Take a walk or do some yoga. Read an uplifting book. Spend time with family or friends. You can even do some volunteer work or get involved in activism group.