The Invasion of Ukraine: Resources for Educators and Families

Map of Ukraine

Learn how schools can support members of their school community impacted by the events in Ukraine, as well as how educators and families can discuss the conflict with young people.

The following resources provides schools with tips for supporting students, families, and staff members who are impacted by the conflict in Ukraine.

This resource collection also includes recommendations for discussing the crisis with children and teens.

Supporting Students Impacted by the Conflict

Students with ties to Ukraine

Students and families with ties to Ukraine may be anxious, distressed, grieving, and traumatized by the news they are seeing and hearing from loved ones. They may also have a hard time focusing. At the same time, students may have strong community and family ties that are providing important support right now, as seen in the following stories:

Keep the following guidelines in mind in your interactions with Ukrainian students:

  • Proceed with utmost care and sensitivity. Do not ask students with ties to the events to comment on current events, either publicly or privately.
  • Avoid making assumptions about students' experiences.
  • Check in with students and families to let them know that you are available to talk if needed.
  • Talk with family liaisons or others who know their community well to find out how families are responding to current events and what kind of support the school might offer.
  • Consider pulling a team together of family liaisons, parents, and mental health professionals to discuss culturally appropriate forms of support, especially if your school is serving students who have recently arrived from Ukraine.
  • Continue building relationships with students and families so that you can build trust. This will take time, but is essential in order to partner effectively with families.
  • Don't lose sight of students' strengths, their pride in their culture, their resilience, and the contributions they make to the school community.

ELL expert Dr. Ruslana Westerlund, who moved to the U.S. from Ukraine in her early 20's, also encourages teachers of Ukrainian students to learn a few phrases from the Ukrainian language. "If teachers use a few phrases to say ‘hello’ and other words, that would be comforting to the students," she says. Resources about the Ukrainian language, as well as other resources related to the teaching and studying of Ukraine, are available in this resource collection from Harvard University. You can also learn more about Dr. Westerlund’s experiences growing up in Ukraine and coming to the U.S. in her memoir, From Borsch to Burgers: A Cross-Cultural Memoir.

Students with ties to Russia

Students and families with ties to Russia may also be anxious and distressed about the conflict and its impacts. In addition, students may be experiencing bullying or other expressions of hostility in the school or community. These hostilities may also be directed towards Russian-speaking individuals from other nations.

As noted above:

  • Keep in mind that students will bring multiple perspectives about these events. Do not make any assumptions about their experiences or opinions.
  • Do not ask students with ties to the events to comment on current events, either publicly or privately.
  • Check in with students and families to let them know that you are available to talk if needed.
  • Talk with family liaisons or others who know their community well to find out how families are responding to current events and any concerns they might have.

Discussing political violence with ELLs, immigrants, and refugees

The events in Ukraine may be traumatic for refugees who have been displaced (or targeted) by violence, conflict, or civil war. That violence may be the reason they came to America, and students may have many opinions and questions about current events. It's important to proceed with sensitivity and caution in any discussion, especially if you don't know much about students' prior experiences.

  • Consider providing students a private space to share their thoughts, such as a digital journal.
  • Prepare for these discussions in collaboration with counselors and other mental health professionals.
  • Learn more about trauma-informed instruction for immigrant students.

To learn more about how schools have supported other refugee communities, see the following:

Creating a welcoming classroom environment

Look for ways to continue letting all of your ELL/immigrant students and their families need to know that they are valued members of your class, school, and community:

Support for staff

Keep in mind that staff with ties to the conflict may also be deeply distressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted. Providing extra support, flexibility, and opportunities for connection can make a tremendous difference during a difficult time. 

You may also be able to adapt some tips from the following:

 

 

Discussing Ukraine: Resources for Educators

If you will be discussing Ukraine in the classroom:

  • Keep in mind the above tips if you have students who have ties to the conflict.
  • Remind all students to show respect for each other. If needed, establish guidelines for respectful classroom discussions.
  • Don’t hesitate to create some space when needed. For example, after a major event, you could give students a chance to write in journals privately and tell them that the class will be returning to this topic after you’ve had time to read their journals and create a plan.
  • Do some research to see what resources are available from trusted organizations.
  • Check in with colleagues, administrators, and your local teacher union if you want more guidance. 
  • Remember that students may need time, space, and privacy to process what is unfolding. 

Ensure ELLs can fully participate in any lesson or discussion

If you proceed with a discussion or lesson plan, ensure you include ELLs by:

  • considering how the topic might connect to students’ experiences (without making those connections explicit)
  • teaching important background knowledge, vocabulary, and academic language
  • scaffolding the lesson for various levels of proficiency

Classroom resources

Discussing the conflict

Updates on Ukrainian children and students

Ukrainian oral history: Documentary and lesson plans

Experience first-hand accounts of Ukrainian oral history through video clips from the documentary film, Baba Babee Skazala: Grandmother Told Grandmother, of children who, along with their families, were forced to abandon the lives they knew to become refugees in order to ensure their safety during World War II.

Related videos and lesson plans are available from PBS Learning Media's "Ukrainian Oral History: World War II to Present" resource collection. This film was created by Matej Silecky, a professional figure skater-turned-filmmaker who wanted to capture this important history from his family's home country.

Discussing Ukraine: Resources for Families

Tips about news and media coverage

Talking about tough topics

Resources for military families

Students in military families may be navigating feelings about past deployments or anxiety about the future. See these resources for more information:

The Military Child Education Coalition has also compiled these resources to support Ukrainian families.

Reprints

You are welcome to print copies or republish materials for non-commercial use as long as credit is given to Colorín Colorado and the author(s). For commercial use, please contact [email protected].

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