Communication is vital in avoiding emotional triggers
Students can have emotional stressors for many reasons and in AP we probably come across more than most. We deal with vulnerable children who have suffered emotional trauma at sometime in their lives. To exacerbate the problem further, in an online classroom we don’t have the visual cues that you have in a bricks and mortar classroom that might alert you to an impending episode that you might have in the classroom.
It’s important, therefore, to approach curriculum content with sensitivity to triggers that might evoke a distressed response from a student and have the knowledge to help the student if such situations do arise.
Avoiding stressors comes down to good communication with the client, teachers, carers, and parents. When a new student joins us, the school completes our Student Information and Risk Assessment Form. It’s vital that this form contains as much detailed information as possible about the student – not only academic records, but information about past traumas and potential triggers. For example, if the child has recently suffered the loss of a parent, then we need to avoid lessons that might have Mothers’ Day or Father’s Day focus.
It may sound obvious, but with client’s under the tremendous pressure of increasing administrative burdens, completing forms can be rushed and vital information can be missed. This may cause problems for these vulnerable children later in lessons.
We also try to form a close relationship with parents and carers. By keeping up a good dialogue with them, we can be warned in advance of potential stressors.
From the start, careful preparation and planning when designing lessons will help avoid any potential flashpoints. We also need to plan for those moments when, due to a lack of information, an emotional mine is tripped.
The first step is to contain and diffuse the distressed response from the student. Once they can name a problem, it takes much of its power away. So it’s important to encourage the student to state exactly what is troubling them. The issue should then be discussed as calmly and rationally as possible, and hopefully that support will be enough to alleviate their stress.
The key to success in mitigating emotional stressors is to cultivate a strong, trusting, and open relationship with the student, the client school, and parents and carers. And when an event happens, it should be managed with transparency, sensitivity, and accountability. It’s all about good communication.