FOCUS ON STUDENTS AND THE CLASSROOM LEARNING ENVIRONMENT: Help retain classroom routines and an emphasis on the importance of learning, always leaving room for tending to students’ needs.
PROVIDE STRUCTURE: Maintain a predictable, structured class schedule with specific rules and consequences to provide support and consistency for your students. When students are distressed about news from their parents or the circumstances of the deployment, you may want to find an appropriate time for students to share feelings, needs, and fears and have their feelings validated. It is important for students to believe that they are not alone emotionally and to be reassured that their school is a safe and caring place.
MAINTAIN OBJECTIVITY: Respond to events in a calm and caring manner, answer questions in simple, direct terms while helping student’s transition back to their normal studies and activities. Regardless of personal political beliefs, as a professional educator entrusted with vulnerable children who need nurturing and support, refraining from expressing possible negative opinions about their loved one’s involvement in the military is a significant contribution to their emotional well-being.
REINFORCE SAFETY AND SECURITY: After any classroom discussion of a deployment-related event, end the discussion with a focus on the child’s safety and the safety measures being taken on behalf of their loved one. In the event of a deployment due to crisis or war, protect students from unnecessary exposure to frightening situations and reminders. Limit adult-to-adult conversations about frightening details in front of your students. It is best not to have television news as a backdrop when students are in class.
BE PATIENT AND REDUCE STUDENT WORKLOAD AS NEEDED: Expect some temporary slowdown or disruption in learning when a change affecting students occurs. Plan for shorter lessons and proceed at a slower pace when necessary. [recommendation: change this a bit to reflect the individual student and not the class as a whole]
LISTEN: Be approachable, attentive and sensitive to the unique needs of children coping with deployment and family separations. Let the child know that they can speak with you or with a school counselor, nurse, psychologist or social worker about their questions and concerns. Take time to discuss the deployment and provide factual information. It is important to reduce fear and prevent rumors from spreading. By allowing students to ask questions, they can gain information about the event which helps take away some of their confusion. Talk about events in terms they can understand. Limit scary or hurtful communication. Some children may express themselves inappropriately; however, it is important to recognize that this is also a way of coping with overwhelming feelings of fear, anxiety, and confusion.
BE SENSITIVE TO LANGUAGE AND CULTURAL NEEDS: It is difficult to express or interpret feelings when children and parents or caregivers speak a different primary language. Bilingual/bicultural personnel are most important in providing intervention services. Teachers and other school personnel must be aware of, knowledgeable about and sensitive to the values and beliefs of other cultures in order to assist students and their families appropriately. Inquire about school, community and military resources that are available to assist.
ACKNOWLEDGE AND VALIDATE FEELINGS: Help students develop a realistic understanding of deployment. Provide reassurance to students that the feelings of loss, anger, frustration or grief are normal responses to separation. Everyone reacts and adjusts to deployment and change at a different pace.
REINFORCE ANGER MANAGEMENT: Expect some angry outbursts from students. While recognizing that it is natural to feel hurt and angry when someone we care about has left, there are appropriate ways to express anger without hurting yourself or taking your anger out on others. Reinforce age-appropriate anger management and adjustment interventions to ensure a climate of nonviolence and acceptance.
Source: Educators Guide to the Military During Deployment This booklet, sponsored by the Educational Opportunities Directorate of the Department of Defense, is intended to help educators build coping skills in students during and after a military deployment. http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/os/homefront/homefront.pdf