What steps can we take to get started on the journey to become a trauma-sensitive safe and supportive school?

Teacher-Staff-DiscussionBefore any school can successfully undertake the  process to create a trauma-sensitive school, careful and thoughtful consideration should be given to the question how do we know we are ready? (the inquiry-based process is described in chapter two of  Volume 2 of Helping Traumatized Children Learn). Our work has shown us that schools that can articulate why they are ready and can identify the priorities that are the catalyst for their decision to undertake the work of becoming trauma sensitive are much more likely to have success with it taking hold.


In assessing whether your school is ready to become trauma-sensitive, we have found the following factors need to be in place:

  • a strong investment on the part of the school’s leadership,
  • a strong motivation and sense of urgency on the part of the school staff to create a trauma-sensitive environment,
  • a willingness to set aside time for a Steering Committee to meet regularly and engage in the inquiry-based process.

Many schools may not have all of these factors in place and may need to work to build more consensus that trauma-sensitivity is a way to address the school’s priorities. One way to go about building consensus is by sharing information to deepen staff’s understanding of the impacts of trauma on learning, behavior, relationships and student well-being. There are a variety of ways to go about learning together to develop a coalition within the school. The Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI) has developed several resources that can be used to help share information with leadership and staff including:

  • Helping Traumatized Children Learn, Volume 1 which can be used to help contribute to the understanding of the impacts of trauma on learning, behavior and relationships and introduces the Flexible Framework designed to help schools establish school-wide practices and supports for staff and students.
  • Helping Traumatized Children Learn, Volume 2 which describes the attributes of a trauma-sensitive school and is a guide for using the inquiry-based process schools can undertake to become trauma-sensitive.  Both volumes are available for free download by clicking here .
  • Why We Need Trauma-Sensitive Schools Video and Discussion Guide, designed to help schools and others understand what a trauma-sensitive school looks like. To view the video, click here and to see the discussion guide, click here
  • TLPI’s Distance Learning Modules which can be used structure the sharing of information and facilitate discussion. TLPI is currently piloting the distance learning modules. For more information or to join the pilot, please click here  to  contact us.

A number of schools have shared with us a variety of creative ways and formats that they have used these and other resources to facilitate the crucial step of learning together to help create a shared and deepened understanding of trauma’s impacts on learning and to develop a coalition in the school committed to using a school-wide approach to trauma sensitivity. We hope you find the following ideas helpful:

  • Starting a book group with staff and hosting discussion about the readings.
  • Forming a study group to meet regularly to read about and discuss trauma’s impact on learning.
  • Creating opportunities for leadership and school staff to participate in professional development on the impacts of trauma on learning
  • Including readings and discussions on the impacts of trauma on learning during time allotted for professional learning communities
  • Including excerpts or quotes from Helping Traumatized Children Learn, Vol. 1 in weekly faculty e-mails or newsletters to slowly expose staff to key ideas and concepts over time

When a number of leadership and staff make the connection between the priorities they feel must be addressed and trauma-sensitivity, the motivation for creating a trauma-sensitive school is in place and the school is ready to begin the inquiry based process.  For more information on readiness or to share some of the learning approaches you have used, please contact us.

How has your school assessed readiness to undertake the work of becoming more trauma-sensitive? How have you worked to build a coalition of people in your school to lead the work?

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