Trauma-Sensitive Schools Embrace Teamwork and Share Responsibility for All Students

Teacher-and-teacher's aid

In an earlier post, the six attributes of a trauma-sensitive school were introduced.  This is the fifth in a series of blog posts that will delve deeper into each of the individual attributes.

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. Expecting one individual staff person to solve all of trauma’s challenges alone and on a case-by-case basis, or to reinvent the wheel every time a new adversity presents itself, is not only inefficient, but it can cause educators to feel overwhelmed.

Addressing the impacts of trauma takes the whole community joining together.

In a trauma-sensitive school, educators make the switch from asking themselves “What can I do to fix this child?” to a community conversation around “What can we do to support all children to help them feel safe and participate fully in our school community?”  Otherwise, the positive impacts one teacher can make in her/his classroom can too easily be undone when a child gets in line for the bus, walks into a chaotic hallway, or enters the lunchroom.  Addressing the impacts of trauma takes the whole community joining together. Acknowledging the harmful experiences many children endure can also present personal challenges; for some educators it can also evoke uncomfortable memories of adversities they experienced in their own childhoods. The human need for safety and security is so powerful that at times even the most caring adults may feel the urge to turn away from facing the impacts of trauma. If they raise the issue of trauma when discussing students’ needs, educators need to be able to trust that they will receive support from their colleagues and the school’s leader. They must feel confident that a structure will be in place to address a struggling student’s needs in a holistic way and that every adult in the school will join in that effort.

The focus on teamwork extends to partnering with families.

This focus on teamwork extends to partnering with families. By providing meaningful, confidential ways for parents and caregivers to share their knowledge of, and insight into, their children, educators can help them gain a sense of trust in the school. As this trust deepens, it becomes possible for parents and teachers to talk about a child’s strengths and interests, openly share concerns, and work together to address sensitive issues that might be affecting a student’s school performance. These issues may range from everyday ups and downs to more serious issues, such as medical issues, divorce, adoption, foster care, homelessness, or other losses. Students can benefit greatly from the consistent approaches that can result from this school-home collaboration.

What efforts has your school undertaken to embrace teamwork and create shared responsibility for all students?

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