So, this year is crazy and we’re either full time, hybrid, or virtual….and fluctuating between all three! Where does that leave our kids with the highest needs? The jury’s still out on that one, but chances are, you’re seeing mandated student quarantines that last anywhere from 5 to 20-something days. And while I’m not an advocate of suspension, it happens.
All this to say, students are missing tons of school throughout the country on a daily basis.
Whether it’s a week or a month, your students with trauma histories, behavioral support needs, and academic difficulties, may need a re-entry plan upon coming back to school after an extended absence.
Why You Need a Re-entry Plan
The core of a re-entry plan is recognition. You, the teacher, are acknowledging the situation you’re in without judgement. Your student with high needs has missed many school days and they are not in the same place they were when they left. You may be tempted to get wrapped up in how much instructional time was lost and the skills they will have forgotten, and the systems they won’t follow now that they’re back, and blah blah blah. I’m sorry, but none of that matters. Can’t change it, program for it! That’s the motto.
Re-align your expectations to support engagement in the situation you’re in for that student. Reduce environmental stressors for possible escalations and support the student in possible anxieties they will exhibit. When we create a plan for re-entry, we’re supporting student self-concept and confidence, not dwelling on what has been lost.
What it Should Consist Of
The most important piece of this puzzle is relationship building. You must re-establish the trust and sense of safety. Your classroom environment, staff, and material must all support trust and build the foundation for risk taking. We must welcome our students back wholeheartedly with the intention of reestablishing a positive relationship, regardless of the reason for removal.
Behavioral supports are also integral to a re-entry plan’s success. Review BIPs, goals & objectives, procedures, systems, and take time for gentle reminders and support. Make a list of all behaviors this student has exhibited in the past and level them based on intensity. Triage that list by deciding which behaviors you will focus on first if they arise. Plan for a review of expectations with the student as though it’s day 1.
You’ll want to include academic supports and accommodations in that plan too. For this step, you’ll pull maintenance work that targets known skills of the student. This core work should be simple, with clear directions, independent in nature, and allow for scaffolding of increased difficulty. In this way, you’re setting your student up for success from day one and not presenting material at their frustration level. Remember, students may not have done 1 ounce of reading, math, or writing while they’ve been gone. No judgement (even if it’s not ideal!), just planning for the reality of the situation.
How to Implement
Once you have your outline for:
Re-establishing the relationship
Crafted Behavior supports
Compiled maintenance and scaffolded work
Now, you’re ready to implement. It should be noted that at this point, you have a draft. Share this draft with your team; counselors, BCBA’s, Admin, Gen Ed, SpEd, OT, etc. Whoever is going to be supporting this student, ask for their feedback. Once you’ve taken feedback into consideration and tweaked the plan, you’re ready to implement it. Send it to all teachers, support staff, etc with explicit instructions. Explain the goal, the approach, academic and behavioral targets.
I know this may seem really in-depth, but most of the work you’ve already done. Think back to the beginning of the year and the supports you had in place then. You’re basically going backwards for a couple of weeks to go forward!
Things to shy away from
Rehashing the reason for student removal/suspension! You never want to shame a student for choices they’ve made or their families have made. Your job is to create a clean slate for safety and learning.
Asking too many questions: Don’t get caught up about what the student did/didn’t do while not at school. The truth is, you probably won’t like the answer, so don’t set yourself up! Just move forward with intention.
Okay, so now you have an outline of what a re-entry plan is, what it consists of, and how to implement it. It may seem like an extra step, and possibly even unnecessary at times, but the real goal of this work is to reset expectations for both you and your students. Remember, my goal in supporting your trauma supportive classroom is to provide you with resources that lead to positive student outcomes AND reduced teacher burnout. Use this system as a framework for reaching these goals, friends.
Have questions about reentry? Ask away! I’m always here to support you.
If you’re looking for a quick win in de-escalating students in crisis, grab my FREE E-Book here. In it, I teach you my top 3 tried and tested strategies for regulating students!