Reflection on using Trauma-informed pedagogy in the classroom

I reviewed the plan that I put together before starting this semester, and the one thing I can say was that I followed the plan. I tried to build in flexibility, while at the same time making due dates explicit and issuing reminders. I held a check-in at the beginning of each class. I tried to allow for student choice. I also followed up individually with students who were falling behind using Blackboard and Connect2Success.

However, I am left feeling unsatisfied with how the experience went this semester. In most of my classes, students did not participate in the check-in. There were a few more outspoken students who always spoke, and trying to engage others more often than not resulted in “I’m OK.” It was demoralizing for me to speak to a blank Zoom screen, because I allowed students the option of turning on their cameras or not. Most chose not to turn on the cameras, and it made it difficult for me to connect. I made a Discussion Board on Blackboard that was meant to be fun and tried to start several discussions about cute animals or favorite music and got no responses from students.

In particular, I felt like there was little to be done for those students who really struggled. Some stopped responding to my emails, though they seemed to want to engage early in the semester. Others never really responded. Some sent me a cry for help saying “I am struggling” but did not respond to the next email that laid out some services that BMCC offered. In addition, I got little engagement from the Connect2Success. The students who got the Kudos flag replied with a thank you, but those who struggled didn’t really engage. I also didn’t get much from the advisors – an occasionally auto-generated email that said my flag was closed with no follow-up.

I know that much of this is because we are all struggling to stay afloat this semester. Trauma-informed pedagogy makes the classroom a more welcoming place, but does not solve the myriad structural issues that our students face. As much as we can point to services and try to bring students along, we hit a wall, and it makes me sad to see students unable or unwilling to take that step to ask for help. And even if they do, I can’t give them what they likely need – their basic needs and time and mental energy to focus on school work.

TLP homework – Yuliya Shneyderman

In completing this assignment. I am trying to address all of the principles listed on the handout we got from the Columbia School of Social Work.

Physical, emotional, social and academic respect

  • I have provided content warning on videos that I am providing that might be upsetting. I will do the same on my course site on OpenLab.
  • I will allow revisions to work, especially in the Writing Intensive class, but also in any of my classes. Additionally, in my HED 110 class, I already follow an ungrading model with my writing assignments, where students receive full credit if they complete the assignment fully, or are allowed revisions if it’s not complete. This is also true for the scaffolding steps in my HED 230 writing intensive class.
  • In the classes which have a synchronous component, I will have a 10 minute check-in before we begin on course material.

Trustworthiness and transparency

  • I have started to provide the rationale for the assignments I have created. Instead of just writing out the assignment, I’ve added statements like “completing this part of the assignment will help you do …”
  • I am posting links to assignments and due dates in multiple places, and will provide reminders as announcements.

Support and connection

  • I will make use of individual emails more to follow-up with students who are falling behind. This was effective in the Spring of 2020.
  • I will remind students that I am available and there to guide them through this time. I will also stress the other services available at the college for them like the library, writing center, counseling center, etc.

Collaboration and mutuality

  • In the HED 230 class, I have explicitly left some lecture/discussion topics for us to select together by voting.
  • I will facilitate asynchronous discussion through assignments on the discussion board. Additionally, if there is a synchronous component, I will use breakout rooms for students to discuss relevant topics.

Empowerment, voice, choice

  • In my synchronous classes, I will allow students to pick a time for a short break.
  • I allow students to pick their own research topics in my writing intensive class, while at the same time providing some structure by following a theme. Similarly, in HED 110, students will work on investigating the health of their neighborhoods, but they can pick topics to focus on themselves.

Cultural, historic, and gender contexts

  • I already make these contexts as explicit as possible, since they are very relevant to health issues. In particular, we discuss health equity and health disparities. In order to make this more positive and hopeful, I am going to focus on what communities and people are doing to reach health equity as examples. This type of discussion can get depressing, so it’s important to provide hope.

Resilience, growth, change

  • I will make use of the Connect2Success feature to send positive comments, as well as warnings.
  • I like to use humor in my classes whenever possible. I’ve created a “Take a break” board on the discussion boards and I will post funny videos or images there, and encourage students to do the same, as well as post their pets, or other fun things.
  • In my welcome video, I intend to address that many of us may have had a difficult learning experience in the Spring and that we will look forward to a better semester this time, since we have learned many lessons since then.