Aras Bozkurt, Anadolu University,
According to a study covering 31 country cases that represent around 63% of the whole world population, Covid-19 not only interrupted education, but it also caused trauma, psychological pressure, and anxiety as well as many other problems such as digital divide, inequity and social injustice (Bozkurt, 2020). Such a view requires us to think about what causes trauma… by default, we would think that natural disasters, social conflicts, social inequalities or some other catastrophic events can cause trauma. However, in contrast to the general assumption, everyday stress and the chaotic nature of our lives, and many rooted problems that surface in the weakness of social structures can cause trauma. Besides, those who are vulnerable to traumatic experiences are not limited to learners that went through the Covid19 pandemic: LGBTQ, non-traditional, disabled, chronically ill, and minority learners (and many other parties that are not articulated in this post) can be affected by trauma.
Why do we need to practice trauma-informed pedagogy during the Covid-19 pandemic and also in the (new) normal? The answer is too simple. Our brains and minds are nurtured by knowledge, yet our hearts and souls are nurtured by care and love. Covid-19 was an unpleasant reminder that learners have hearts and souls, and pedagogy, as a usual business, should be beyond cognitive objectives that concern our brains and minds, but should include affective approaches that concern our hearts and souls.
Everyday life is, in fact, a trauma for many learners and trauma is a broad term which has many faces, sometimes masked and sometimes unmasked… SAMHSA (2014) defines trauma as “an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.” (p. 7). It is further noted that traumatic experiences can affect learners’ educational trajectory negatively (Downey, 2007). In this regard, considering that families, societies, and educational institutions are environments where learners explore and learn about life, as individuals and as educators, it is our responsibility to care about learners, develop empathy, and acknowledge their existence. We should further let them know that we are aware of them and we are walking on their side, and when they need us, we will be there. Trauma-informed pedagogy is, therefore, vital and we have to recognise the trauma that learners are dealing with and we don’t have the luxury to ignore it and turn our back on our learners.
When should we practise trauma-informed pedagogy? We need it in a time of crisis and uncertainty, as in the Covid-19 case, and we also need it in a time of complexity and chaos as in the case of the 21st century… Trauma didn’t emerge with the Covid-19 crisis, it only surfaced!Trauma is not peculiar to Covid-19, but it has become more visible! Please now pause for a moment…
Take a deep breath and consider yourself as a learner affected by the harsh nature of the Covid-19 pandemic… no, don’t stop yet! Consider yourself as a refuge learner without a land that you can call homeland, consider yourself as an LGBTQ learner with those who hate your identity, consider yourself as a learner with a skin colour that is not white, consider yourself as a minority who feels alone in the crowd… please further consider yourself as a learner where you are stuck with cogwheels of structured education where you are supposed to reach predefined academic outcomes, where we are supposed to constantly race with other learners and where you are supposed to think like the system.
If you still feel comfortable after considering yourself like the learners who experience trauma, please do not waste your time reading these lines. But… if you feel uncomfortable, you can take the first steps by creating a warm climate and a welcoming space where we can listen to them, help them, understand them, respect them, and love them as they are… as educators, and most importantly as humans, we must listen to their (unheard) voices, we must value them as a learner and as an individual, we must develop empathy and see the world from their eyes… We must care for them and share their burden, and embrace these learners as they are. Once we really understand them, our actions will definitely be more purposeful and more meaningful.
Bozkurt, A., Jung, I., Xiao, J., Vladimirschi, V., Schuwer, R., Egorov, G., … Paskevicius, M. (2020). A global outlook to the interruption of education due to COVID-19 Pandemic: Navigating in a time of uncertainty and crisis. Asian Journal of Distance Education, 15(1), 1-126. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3878572
Downey, L. (2007). Calmer classrooms: A guide to working with traumatized children.Melbourne: State of Victoria, Child Safety Commissioner.
SAMHSA. (2014). SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-InformedApproach. https://store.samhsa.gov/product/SAMHSA-s-Concept-of-Trauma-and-Guidance-for-a-Trauma-Informed-Approach/SMA14-4884
Aras Bozkurt is a researcher and faculty member in the Department of Distance Education at Anadolu University, Turkey. He has an MA and PhD in distance education. He conducts empirical studies on online learning through resorting to critical theories including connectivism, rhizomatic learning and heutagogy. He is interested in emerging research paradigms including social network analysis, sentiment analysis and data mining. He shares his views at https://twitter.com/arasbozkurt
Feature image: https://unsplash.com/photos/Pv5WeEyxMWU Image credit: Sasha Freemind