Ending the school year amid layers of community trauma: Suggestions for educators

Originally prepared to support Saint Paul Public Schools and Minneapolis Public Schools equity teams:

  • Ensure basic needs are met first: 
    As has been true for generations under anti-blackness, racial capitalism, and heteropatriarchy, we are now in an even more intensified state of threatened basic needs than we have since the beginning of distance learning and shelter-in-place. Doing the most for our kids right now means supporting the absolute basics (food, shelter, sleep, clothing) first. Asking more from them, even those whose material needs appear to be met, is likely to be simply beyond capacity this week.
  • Helping students process:
     I encourage teachers to mindfully offer various kinds of space for students, with no demand to participate in any particular way or at all. For example, some will be looking for space to process what they’re experiencing and observing in our communities. Others will be repelled by this idea–they may be emotionally and physically exhausted and/or they may not trust their school community enough to engage. Both are appropriate responses. For younger students, many teachers are looking for children’s literature to share that might support their students’ processing. You certainly might find and choose a great text to work with on these last days of school, but most important now is to hold your students and their families in beloved community. Again, support basic needs first. If we’ve been providing radical love all year, our students already know it and feel it. Where we have our own work to do to build that practice, now is not the time to begin anew. Over the summer and ongoing, invest in building curriculum and pedagogies that will help you grow and live toward your commitments. These final days are for tending community.
  • Recognizing individual circumstances as relative: 
    We are all living through conditions we may have found unimaginable months and even one week ago. And still, as always, the impact of this moment differs for each of us according to our social positioning: COVID-19 pandemic, the generational traumas of racism, and the uncertainty of the uprisings after George Floyd’s murder feel different in the bodies and lives of Black people and everyone who isn’t Black. They feel different in the bodies and lives of Indigenous people and other people of color and white people, as well. White educators (myself included) must take the demand to step back and step up with care seriously. If you are a white educator with questions or concerns about what this means in your work, please reach out to me or to another white accomplice in anti-racism.

In solidarity,

Annie Mason, Ph.D (she/her/hers), mason@umn.edu
Program Director of Elementary Teacher Education
Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Minnesota