Learn more about each of the 6 attributes of aTrauma-Sensitive School through reading these blog posts:
The first attribute of a trauma-sensitive school is that leadership and staff share an understanding of trauma’s impacts on learning and the need for a school-wide approach. This awareness is the critical first step in creating a trauma-sensitive school. All staff—educators, administrators, counselors, school nurses, cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, athletic coaches, advisors to extracurricular activities, and paraprofessionals—should understand that adverse experiences in the lives of children are exceedingly common and that the impact of these experiences on child development can play a major role in the learning, behavioral, and relationship difficulties faced by many students. Read more…
The second common attribute of a trauma-sensitive school is that the school supports all students to feel safe-physically, socially, emotionally, and academically. A child’s traumatic response, and the associated difficulty in learning, are often rooted in real or perceived threats to his or her safety, undermining their fundamental sense of well-being. Because of this, it is important that the school focuses on helping all students feel safe, not just in their classrooms but also on the playground, in the hallway, in the cafeteria, on the bus, in the gym, and on the walk to and from school. Physical safety is clearly important, but so is social and emotional safety. Critically important as well is that children feel a sense of academic safety. Read more…
The impacts of traumatic experiences can take many forms, and a traumatized student’s behavior can mask, rather than reveal, their difficulties. A middle school student who pushes adults away may in fact long for their help but be afraid of betrayal. A high school student who appears lazy and does not complete his or her work may actually be afraid to follow through out of fear of making mistakes. Approaches that address only the behaviors that appear on the surface often do not respond to a student’s real needs. A broader, more holistic approach is required to understand the needs that underlie a student’s behavioral presentation and to provide supports and build skills that respond to those needs. Read more…
Helping children build skills is only part of what is needed to help them learn. The loss of a sense of safety that can be caused by traumatic events can cause a child to feel disconnected from others. A student may be looking to those at school to establish or restore feelings of security and connection with the school community. All too often, the response to a student who is seeking attention or whose behavior is confusing or oppositional is negative, when the reality is that same student has a real need to connect with their peers and the adults at school. We too easily discipline students for an inappropriate response to an adult by calling it “disrespect”, instead of recognizing a student’s halting or awkward effort to relate. Read more…
Trauma-sensitive schools help all staff—as well as mental health providers, mentors, and others from outside the school who work with staff and students—to feel like they are part of a strong and supportive professional community that shares responsibility for each and every child while working as a team to address the impact of trauma on learning. The school embraces teamwork and staff share responsibility for all students.
A trauma-sensitive school moves away from the typical paradigm, where classroom teachers have primary responsibility for their respective students, toward a paradigm based on shared responsibility that requires ongoing teamwork and effective communication throughout the school.
There are a seemingly endless number of events that can have traumatizing impacts on children. A whole community can be negatively impacted by community violence or other tragedy that may reverberate particularly strongly for students in the school. Sometimes, a troubling event can happen within the school.
We also know that children bring dramatically different experiences into school from year to year as the surrounding community changes due to economic pressures, immigration patterns, and other factors. Often these changes can result in large turnovers in the school population, even within the same school year. Likewise, there can be high levels of staff turnover from year to year, creating a sense of instability. When schools and classrooms are constantly confronted with changes, the classroom and the school’s equilibrium can be upset.
Part 3: Visions of a Trauma-Sensitive School Questions
Question 1: Why do we feel an urgency to become a trauma-sensitive school?
Question 2: How do we know we are ready to create a Trauma-Sensitive Action Plan?
Question 3: What actions will address staff priorities and help us become a Trauma-Sensitive School?
Question 4: How do we know we are becoming a Trauma-Sensitive School?