As a student, trauma can impact every aspect of your life. It can make it hard to concentrate in class, keep you up at night worrying about when you will see your friends again, and cause you to experience panic attacks whenever you hear sirens. Most importantly, the effects of trauma can be long-lasting and leave an individual feeling unable to cope with their daily lives. This is why we need trauma-informed practices in our schools so that students have a safe space where they feel heard and supported. Students who have experienced traumatic events are often unable to access school resources as well as other programs because of their triggers resulting from past experiences. The below practices help schools become more trauma informed and better serve their students.
A morning meeting is a regular school gathering that allows the entire school community to come together and have an intentional conversation about the goal for the day. The conversation should be led by a student or staff member who is not currently in a leadership position in the school to avoid an excessive hierarchy. The goal of a morning meeting is to create a safe space where anyone can speak and be heard. Students can use the time to connect with each other, reflect on their feelings and experiences, and have a conversation about what they hope to get out of the day. Students can participate in a variety of ways. They can speak in turn while the rest of the group listens. They can also write their thoughts down and share them with the group. The meeting can be hosted by one person, or it can be led by a team of people whose roles rotate each day.
If your school has an on-site counseling service, then make sure your students are aware of how to access it. You can also create a referral form for students who need outside services and a copy of the same for school counselors. If you don’t have an on-site counselor, but you know that many of your students need support, you can request an outreach counselor from the county’s mental health department. If you are a counselor in a school, one of your primary goals should be to build positive relationships with students who may need support. Create time to talk with students and let them know that you are there for them. Be open to their stories and their feelings. If a student shares that they need help, make it clear that you are available to them and connect them with the appropriate resources.
Collaborative learning environments promote inter-generational mentoring between students and teachers and between students themselves. This mutual support can help reduce feelings of isolation and promote healing. Collaborative learning environments can also make a school space more inclusive for students who may feel left out because of their socioeconomic status or any number of other factors. Collaborative learning environments can be created in a variety of ways. Teachers can switch their grading policies so that students can help each other out and participate in peer-review processes. Students can also be given more control over their learning, such as in project-based learning environments.
Schools can make changes to how they operate by being more transparent about how decisions are made, being open to diverse student and teacher voices, and creating safe spaces for various identities, cultures, and experiences to be shared. These changes can be made through the use of organizational development tools, such as action planning (see below), organizational mapping, and visioning exercises. Organizational change goes beyond just adopting a few new practices, but rather, it is a long-term process that involves many stakeholders and typically lasts for years. By being more transparent and open to student and teacher voices, schools will create a safe space for people to share their experiences. This can be done through action planning, where a group of people come together to create strategies to address an issue. Action planning encourages people to share their diverse perspectives and supports them in making connections between their past and present-day realities.
Trauma-informed practices are crucial to helping students who have experienced trauma access the resources they need to move forward in their healing journey. These practices can be implemented in a variety of ways, and they don’t have to cost much money or require a lot of time. Schools that implement trauma-informed practices can make a big difference in the lives of their students.
If you are feeling any of these symptoms then it is time to get some help!!