During the past year, schools nationwide were forced to make swift decisions that disrupted typical instructional routines and impacted student learning and wellbeing. 

Amid the pandemic, students have had to face many new and distressing realities: transitions from in-person to distance learning or blended models, concerns about personal health and safety, social and political tensions, and complicating situations at home. These challenges have affected students’ sense of isolation, academic outcomes, and classroom behaviors. We have a responsibility to address these issues in order to be trauma-informed schools.

Research has shown that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are more common than we realized, and these have a significant impact on a student’s ability to focus and succeed. With the addition of COVID-19 and continued uncertainty about what the upcoming semester will look like, it’s clear that healing and wellness must be a focus as educators prepare for 2021. 

Defining Student Wellbeing

Student wellbeing is a student’s overall development and quality of life. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), student wellbeing encompasses many areas, including:

  • Physical: lifestyle and overall health
  • Psychological: mental health, including emotional problems, self-awareness, and purpose
  • Cognitive: the ability to for students use what they know to solve problems
  • Social: relationships with peers, teachers, and family and feelings about belonging and social life

6 Ways Educators Can Help

School leaders and teachers can create a positive school environment that shapes student wellbeing and improves student success by sustaining supportive, disciplined classrooms, and by establishing practices, and policies that make everyone feel safe and supported. 

These practices include:

1. Connect with Daily Check-Ins with Students

Regular check-ins with students help students feel connected and supported. Brief but consistent check-ins can be a good source of feedback to help direct students and help them feel supported. This can be done in person or remotely through conferencing apps like Zoom. 

2. Plan Mindfully and Put the Syllabus on the Calendar 

By planning ahead, you can prepare for stressful times, like exam weeks, to prevent student overload. Publishing calendars and reminders also helps students plan ahead for readings, assignments, and tests, so they aren’t pulling all-nighters for something unexpected.

3. Normalize Struggle and Failure

Many students are anxious about failure and either avoid challenges or shut down and disengage when faced with problems. Encourage a growth mindset (“I can succeed if I work hard”) over a fixed mindset (“I am smart” or “I am dumb”). Normalize the idea that failure is part of growth, and make an effort to connect with struggling students with timely and structured support. 

4. Encourage Healthy Habits 

Encourage habits like adequate sleep, regular exercise, and mindful moments. Making deadlines at 10 PM rather than midnight can help students get to sleep earlier. Allow for moments of reflection and calm in instructional time.

5. Publicize Services On and Off Campus

Promote awareness of services like counseling and tutoring to encourage students to get the help they need. Students may not be aware of how to access these services in their new “remote reality.” Proactively share information and include messaging that addresses any negative stigma to encourage students to take advantage of these services. 

6. Provide Anonymous Helplines and Online Self-Help Resources

Even when resources are available, many students may not reach out for help. Making resources private and easily accessible encourages students to take advantage.


To support educational equity and the excellence of every student, it is important to take a holistic approach to the challenges today’s students face.

Looking to invest in school culture through meaningful prevention and provide disciplinary practices that are restorative instead of punitive? Supplement your on-campus efforts and your existing frameworks with online, evidence-based prevention courses and sanctions. Learn more by scheduling a call today.