SOL #9 (summer of learning 2021) trauma sensitive instruction by Tom Hierck & John F Eller
A timely book. One of which I knew was coming (but not sure if I can share why…) thanks to a chat with one of the authors – my path has interwoven with Tom pretty much since I entered admin and was his gofer when he came to an event in Prince George. Last summer he zoomed in to our staff to give us a positive start to September (and we used his DNA activity share to better get to know our learners…
Anyways, as a firm believer in serendipity, I knew this book was coming out and during our schools June Day looking at school goals, I kept hearing statements around “needing to be more trauma informed…” and as I believe one of my jobs as principal is to be a synthesizer of ideas, I put them together and ordered a school set (teachers and support staff) of Trauma Sensitive Instruction and hoped they would arrive before the last day of school …. And thanks to serendipity, they did.
The book is going to be a tool to focus our lens on trauma sensitivity within our school community. Our school code of conduct for over a decade (long before I got here) has been lWe take care of Ourselves; Others; Our Place”. This book will lead us through monthly chapter focuses as I reinforce September being out making relationships and the conditions for learning to then get busy….later….
When I read the chapter headings I knew we would all benefit from refreshing our memories and refocusing our mission around being more trauma sensitive to be even more inclusive in ur practice…because as my soon to be hired vice principal (new position for our school) will learn – the number one job of the office is to get learners back into classrooms! (ready for learning of course).
Start with a welcome. Put strategies in place. Let them work for awhile – don’t quit on them too soon (I can’t remember who said it, but I recall being told a new class/personal intervention should take a minimum of 11 days – 2 weeks of practice and then the third week for everyone to buy into “this is the way”…) as the concepts aren’t new, though being mindful of trauma may be….
Both authors open their souls to their experiences around. Trauma and mental wellness – because honesty and transparency are helpful…
Chapter One: the impact of trauma on educators and students
September’s staff meeting think (knowing and. Hoping the book will have already be ready by everyone long before our gathering
How life impact the school experience – for the learner but also for the adults…
Make sure that the key words (trauma, and it’s descriptors) are understood by all to mean the same thing.
Be aware of the many varied points along the trauma spectrum – such as toxic stress or as those of us who use Zones of Regulation have called it: living in the yellow zone.
Love the review of the sections of the brain and “why” it may act in certain ways based on experiences ( I am working with a boy who always has an escape plan – which is part of why he is always last in/last out and often “patrolling” the halls checking in on key people). Sigh
Great reflection questions in the chapter… I am also mindful that this chapter may open some unpleasant reflections for many and there may be some disclosures that come to light…. But it’s going to open up some wonders about how we react to a student who suddenly leaves the classroom… acts unexpectedly (we are becoming big fans of reflecting on “expected vs unexpected behaviours” by individuals in and around classrooms and the school grounds)… and maybe paying a bit more attention to those students who are going out of their way to be helpful (appeasing)….
Chapter Two: the importance of attitude and mindset in working with trauma
October focus after a month focusing on building relationships…
I love the opening share that leads to the mindset of “get to” vs “have to”…it’s subtle but is a key mindshift – knowing when we have to do things and identifying when we get to “get to” moments! Trust me, a little survey showed more kids have to read rather than than get to….
Read Dweck’s Mindset book. My new VP will if they haven’t already… and Tom & John nicely highlight it again!
“Temporary suspension of opinion” is much nicer than my idea of being able to disassociate and compartmentalize to be unbiased in reaction to certain situations.
Focusing on trauma helps with both school outcomes and building student resilience for “the next time”. But also accepting students for who they are rather than who you wish they may be… not playing favourites… unconditionally accepting students. Researching expectations when necessary – even if it’s been gone over a thousand times…😜
Looking forward to more DNA shares next year: Dreams, Needs, & Abilities of individuals. Probably need to do one myself as well… then build on our gifts! Hmmm ties nicely into PBL…
Can you offer a clean slate/sea of forgetfulness to have a student leave an incident behind and then move forward? ( we are trying a restitution framework on paper so that multiple adults can be involved to get through and past a ‘big deal’).
This will be an interesting chapter to reflect on. It’s going to lead to good discussions around what should an office referral be? Result/Consequence? Restitution? Respite?
Chapter Three: classroom structures to support trauma-sensitive practices
November reflection time on how things are going
I’m pretty sure this will be the chapter most skim to right away. What’s the magic solution? No spoilers….just strategies…!
Check-ins are important. As I have said, I appreciate it when a kid has their hat on pulled low and a hoodie drawn so tight there isn’t space for a straw… they may need to chat with someone trusted…. But it’s less about the check in and more about predictable stable classrooms – something I was called out on when I was talking about my chaotic classroom and a teacher who got to work with me called BS that while there were many moving parts, everyone knew what (and why) was going on. Sidebar: this is also why I never spent too much time decorating my classroom – I preferred to cocreate it so that everyone knew where things were and could give input if it didn’t feel right. It was “our” classroom after all. Since proven a good thing by others spending more time exploring anxiety and regulation have noted… sometimes less is more even though there are many beautiful classrooms – just a thought….
Oooh – nice template to identify learning environment potential problem area… and glad I brought several copies of Tom’s book “7 keys” last year – I suspect this will get some re-reads for thinking about the classroom culture.
Great reminder to be mindful of movement…
I’m looking forward to the sharing time at this months staff meeting! Especially connecting strategies to earlier chapters (brain regions and behaviours…)
Chapter Four: positive relationships with students
December is not the happiest time for all, for many it can be a triggering time of year – so time to focus on the positive
Nature of trust. Focusing on strengths helps build trust… being mindful of tone… feedback.
Remember that children see their environment as normal… so if in trauma…how will they know (sidebar that this is an important share from Howard Stern producer Gary Del’Abate who shared he didn’t know what normal was until he brought serious girlfriends home -and visited their family- to learn that how his mom acted was not the way every mom acted…if you don’t know, you can’t know…)
It is also important to make “deposits” in emotional bank accounts (bucket filling) as giving to others does not deplete your account… withdrawals…are frequent with many adults who disappoint (I was working with a student who has been abandoned by every adult he has been in contact with. Three of us on staff are ready to “pop in” to the high school in September to show we are still watching out for him (and then we will remind each other to continue some pop ins until he walks the stage….)
Caring matters. So does humour – but I like the warning about sarcasm – it is okay to be self sarcastic but not to poke fun at the students – too often sarcasm weakens the relationship. Best not to use because it too easily goes wrong.
Feedback (verbal and through body language) matters. Descriptive and specific is better than generic. Nice shoes vs I love how the shoes light up with every step – bet they make you run fast! Be specific, share an example, provide a rationale fo a change, state desired behaviour, check for understanding, re-explain/clarify if necessary and then share your wish to follow up. (Then give time for ‘it’ to happen)
One of the monthly wonders will be: what may happen to the teacher-student relationship if it’s not the teacher but the pvp working with the student on their assets? How do we find time to work more collaboratively on this (I’m thinking our school restitution paper/plan may help with this…)
Identifying who is having a hard time making relationships.
What feedback successes do we have an opportunity for before winter break?
Chapter Five: trauma-sensitive classroom management strategies and techniques
January – back from the winter break and a good time to reflect on what has (and has not) worked so far and share ideas with each other
Focus on student learning needs (physical, social and emotional) aka establishing the conditions for learning knowing that some will have unmet needs in their home environment.
Identify teaching needs (stable environment, gauge students emotional states etc)
Have a variety of strategies but be consistent where needed (don’t give up on something too soon or try too many new things at the same time). Redirect off-task behaviours (I like the Dr Ross Greene idea of tell them, then give them time to do it – it may not be right away… but give them some processing time – I usually swing back in 5 mins thanks to the timer on my watch)
Good lists of ideas…as you provide choices… avoid power struggles (leave those for the pvps) with one point on the ‘broken record’ strategy which I have used but you gotta “know your client” as my repetition was triggering to a student – as our school counsellor debriefed with the idea that we put in place with more success – kstate it once and let it go’
Ooh: “real power and control come from your influence with a child, not your dominance over a child”.
I think the monthly reflection will be around the chapters reflection questions and debating if this should have been September’s read…. Thus why I like it for the new calendar year…!
Chapter Six: parent and family engagement
February – time for our student leds and planning for year end activities that can better(?) engage and reflect our learning community.
How to balance engagement as a positive interaction between the guardian, child and teacher. Especially in families that had a negative school experience themselves… engagement and involvement are different mindsets… and need an avoidance of judgement, listening skills, staying focused, and an awareness of family cultures. Being mindful of systemic discrimination, racism, traumas. And avoiding edu-talk (jargon and codes and abbreviations – take the time to use all the words)
I am looking forward to looking at ways to increase family engagement (especially as the pandemic continues to influence schooling…)
Looking forward to using this book this year- especially as I further encourage reframing the “p” in ptsd to mean “personalized” There are some great takeaways and a strong framework to help focus our attention to a “lens of trauma” as what works for students with trauma will work for all as well. Glad I got to see this book in time to share with staff for a summer read and school year retread!
Strongly recommended to others bookshelves! And as guides for their own schools and districts moving forward!