In an earlier post, the six attributes of a trauma-sensitive school were introduced. We now discuss the fourth attribute of a trauma sensitive school.
In a trauma-sensitive school, the school explicitly connects students to the school community and provides multiple opportunities to for students to practice newly developing skills.
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. It is essential for all staff at a trauma sensitive school to understand that all students have a need to engage in the school community, even those who may seem to be pushing us away.
Helping students make positive connections to other members of the school community, providing opportunities for them to use their newly developing skills in context, and supporting them as they become fluent in participating fully in the community are essential elements of a trauma-sensitive school. Equally important is creating a culture of acceptance and respect in this community of learners, with a meaning focus on creating a school and classroom culture where everyone is seen as having something significant to offer and is encouraged and supported to do so.
For many students, their sense of connection to school can be increased when their parents feel welcomed and respected in the school community. A trauma-sensitive school makes deliberate efforts to engage parents and caregivers and help them connect to the school community in meaningful ways. As students see their parents become involved, students can begin to feel that they and their families are truly part of the school community.
How has your school worked to explicitly connect all students to the school community and provide multiple opportunities for students to practice newly developing skills?