Sign of the Times: Webinars Tackle Terrorism

As we all know, your school’s success is tied to much more than student academic performance. School security, and the emotional and physical well being of your students, staff, and community, are examples of other important issues that must be managed well in our present educational and societal climate. To that end, in December, educators from around the country had the opportunity to tune in to two webinars, courtesy of NASSP, on terrorism—an all too relevant topic today.

Throughout the year, NASSP offers free professional development webinars that provide discussion and instruction on timely topics and tools for education leaders. (Fees for nonmembers vary.) We select topics and bring together experts in their respective fields, so that webinar attendees will get practical takeaways that they can apply in their schools and communities.

iStock_000021303566_XXXLargeThe goal of both “Terrorism—Building a Proactive School Community” on December 10 and “Talking About Terrorism with Your School Community” on December 1 was to provide educators with specific instructions on how they can deal with difficult and unpredictable times. The December 10 webinar, led by Cathy Bonneville Hix, a social studies supervisor in Arlington, VA, and Kirk Dolson, a principal in Sterling, VA, provided detailed directives, using real-life situations at their own schools as examples, on how to build systems within schools and surrounding communities to prepare for terrorist and other violent events, and to support students and others.

The presenters also shared ways to deal with the psychological effects of tragedies, and guidance on what and how to communicate before and after to develop the appropriate messaging to create teachable moments within curriculums. Webinar attendees logged off from this comprehensive webinar with tangible takeaways: a checklist for what to do if a tragic event occurs, ongoing best practices ideas, and website resources.

The December 1 webinar focused on handling the fear and other psychological stress that often go hand in hand with acts of terror and other traumatic life events. Judith Myers-Walls, PhD, a certified family life educator in Indiana, and Roxane Cohen Silver, PhD, a psychology professor at UC, Irvine, offered advice, backed by extensive research, on effective ways to help those struggling with fear and anxiety, including students, teachers, parents, and communities, with sensitivity to diverse backgrounds. Conversely, they also discussed how to cope with the “no big deal/bravado” response—an equally troubling reaction to tragedy. One suggestion: After a tragic event, organize a “debrief” where everyone can express his or her feelings—positive and negative—in a safe place without judgment.

Myers-Walls and Silver both noted the possible negative effects of extensive, live media coverage and graphic, violent imagery, and advised on how to manage it (including social media)—figuring out which news is the most appropriate and helpful to share. Again, this advice was all given using school or community-specific incidences, in addition to wider-reaching acts of violence, as examples. (If you missed this webinar or any other, you can watch archived footage, view an updated schedule, and register for upcoming events at www.nassp.org/webinars.)

The NASSP webinar schedule for the New Year continues with key subjects and expert presenters. “Digital Tools to Improve Communication” kicked off 2016 on January 13, and a webinar on the new Professional Standards for Educational Leaders was held on January 20. Keep checking the Professional Learning page for more opportunities to learn, and tools to keep you and your community safe and successful.

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