Relationship Building in the Face of Trauma

Christina Galit-Trinh is a TK-3 teacher of general music at Pomona Unified School District

In her experience:

Remember the relationship

Bring familiar elements from the classroom into virtual instruction

Give yourself grace as a teacher learning new things

What was it like for you and other teachers when the stay at home orders went into place?

The theme of 2019-2020 has been community and relationship building. There’s a lot of trauma happening in the homes and it impacts the work happening in the classroom. So, we found certain approaches weren’t working. Students and families need to be willing and open to work with us.

When we transitioned into distance learning we maintained that relationship building was the number one priority. Principals and teachers drove to homes, called families and reaffirmed relationships. Our district provided hotspots if they needed it. If students didn’t have chrome books, administrators stopped by with paper lessons, calling if families couldn’t be reached.

Since music class is optional, it felt like a huge win when the students chose to attend. We had to remind students what music class was like when we were all together. In first grade, we have a total of around 50 students; when we had our online music classes, close to 40 kids showed up. You saw the parents smiling in the background, siblings brought their own instruments, it became family music time. Music class also gave classroom teachers an opportunity to reconnect with students who had been absent.

Do you have any tips or tricks for other schools who want to continue music on a virtual platform?

Bring in familiar elements from the classroom, songs they love, pieces they know, all make virtual learning feel like home. Give yourself grace as a teacher for hitting feelings of overwhelm; it’s important to step back and say: we’re doing the best that we can, at the end of the days, if we’re making that connection, that’s making a huge impact on their day.

Our VAPA Teacher Specialist at the Pomona Unified School District, Vicky Tessier is doing an amazing job along with our Assistant Superintendent who has really been pushing for the arts with the Director of Curriculum and Instruction. Pomona has its own arts culture, and bringing those artists into the classrooms has been pivotal in our district. Five years ago, before these programs started, we discovered we had a lot of high school programs, but there was nothing feeding into it at the lower levels. With the addition of board members who were sympathetic to the arts, we were able to slowly create systemic change.