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An Open Letter to Teachers and Educators

It has been a rough year. The pandemic threw students, even those who had lived stable lives pre-COVID, into lives of uncertainty, including financial and housing insecurity.  Those who were already living challenging circumstances faced even more hardships. The constant drum beat of racial injustice added another layer of stress for both teachers and students.

As always, teachers showed up for their kids. Through the struggles with steep learning curves in all manner of online platforms, and competing with video games, lack of motivation, kids’ challenges at home, and other distractions, teachers did their best.

If you are a teacher, we thank you. Research shows that just one positive, or “buffering,” adult can dramatically improve the outlook for a child who has been exposed to trauma or toxic stress. You never know when you are the “one.”  At the time when you are the most important to them, a student may not be able to say thanks. So, we will.

Thank you. You make an extraordinary difference.

  • You are a buffering adult.  The curiosity and care that you show students is a protective and nurturing force. When you listen to their stories, learn about their lives, and show interest in what matters to them, students feel that they matter. This is a powerful gift.
  • You validate their life experiences.  If you are a BIPOC educator, you are in a special position to empathize with the struggles and celebrate the lives being lived by BIPOC youth – representation matters.
  • You can change the way students see themselves.  When you see a child acting out, you see it as a cue that there are missing skills such as self-regulation. You see that behavior is a solution to a problem that is not visible to you. Because you make an effort to really see them, a child begins to see themselves not as a problem, but as someone who belongs and is capable.
  • You make students feel safe. You know that when students know they belong and matter, they feel safe. Paired with consistent routines and clear expectations, you foster an environment where students experience safety consistently. This is an antidote to trauma and makes it possible for students to learn.
  • You’re a partner in their success. When you get to know a student well enough to learn their strengths and mirror those strengths back to them, you encourage students to use their strengths and apply them. From your powerful position as their teacher, you lift up their super-powers!
  • You instill faith.  When you notice and celebrate a student’s achievements and show your belief in them when they struggle, they begin to build the self-confidence they need to thrive. Your encouragement keeps a student dedicated to themselves and their future.