Pandemic-related stress addressed in new teaching workshop

More focus is being placed on students' abilities to learn in classroom settings

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By Aishwarya Singh 

This story has been updated to include comments from Langara instructors Alex Boston and Magdalena Dachtera Wrobel.

A workshop on trauma aimed to help Langara instructors re-evaluate their conduct in the classrooms and acknowledge stress amongst students due to the pandemic.

Alex Boston, philosophy department chair, was one of several instructors who attended the workshop.

“I think I gained awareness and [learned] how widespread the causes of trauma are,” he said. “You don’t spring into solving someone’s problem with your awesome advice, you’re there to listen to the other person.

 The teaching and curriculum development centre hosted the trauma-informed workshop on March 8 for two hours on Zoom with full attendance. It was designed to help instructors understand the issues students are facing as the pandemic continues to hamper their learning. The goal is to create a warm classroom environment for students where they can thrive.

Addressing ways to respond to student anxiety

Parisa Zitouni, educational developer at Langara College, launched the workshop as a result of the COVID-19 related stress she noticed on campus.

“They can share their learning philosophies to their students to, you know, bring a more humanised approach to their learning,” Zitouni said. “They can incorporate compassion and enthusiasm and use positive language.”

Boston said the workshop was a good reminder of what students are going through so instructors can learn to be more lenient and be more available to listen if a student wants to talk or share something.

Magdalena Dachtera Wrobel, a Langara English for academic purposes instructor who didn’t attend the workshop, said she tries to pay attention to her students’ well-being. 

“If students come to the class and they are under a lot of stress then it doesn’t have a good influence on their learning. It’s hard to be academically successful when they are not happy,” said Wrobel.

She believes that students are now stressed about different things than they were before the pandemic.

“The workshop would be beneficial because it would create awareness and give instructors some strategies,” she said. “How to improve the classroom environment, and make it safe for students to feel comfortable and share their concerns in a stress free environment.

Increased focus on the intersection of learning and trauma

Melinda Worfolk, an instructor at College of New Caledonia in Prince George, presented an online workshop on trauma-informed teaching last year.

“We are not psychologists or counsellors but we want to help.”

She said trauma-informed teaching emphasizes the impact of trauma on a person’s behaviour and learning.

Worfolk said students tend not to share stress because they are afraid instructors will not understand them. As a result, their problems keep getting worse.

According to Zitouni, instructors want students to thrive and when that doesn’t happen, it also affects the instructors.

“We are here to create a more accountable learning space where we can nurture more trust in the classroom,” she said.

Watch the video above to hear more from Parisa Zitouni on how this workshop aims to help instructors take into account pandemic related stress. 

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