Month: March 2018

Safe Enough and Healthy Enough

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Children_Playing_in_PlaygroundAs teachers, we know the importance of relationships in learning. Students who have experienced trauma have difficulty forming relationships because of distrust and hesitancy to bond with others.   How, then, do we become a person with whom students can bond and build trusting relationships?

In their book Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom, authors Kristin Souers and Pete Hall indicate that teachers can create environments that are safe enough and healthy enough for building relationships with students who have experienced trauma by providing the following (p. 96):

  1. Consistency.  Students need us to be consistent in our classroom practices and procedures, and in the behaviors we exhibit on a day-to-day basis.
  2. Positivity.  Students need to be surrounded by positive messages and plentiful encouragement.
  3. Integrity.  Students need clearly articulated expectations of honesty, responsibility, and trustworthiness to build a culture of integrity within the classroom. We can reinforce the importance of doing the right things by displaying messages and quotes related to integrity.
  4. Repair when necessary.  Students need us to apologize when our words or deeds hurt them. Be quick to offer an apology and begin the repair necessary to restore the relationship.
  5. Models of appropriate interpersonal behavior.  Students need exemplars. What you say and do in your classroom teaches powerful lessons.   Daily model what is appropriate for all of you students.

As you prepare for next week, think of ways that you can bring greater levels of consistency, positivity, and integrity into the classroom. Doing so will further your relationships with all students!


Six Step Communication Process for Moments of Crisis

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communicationStudents who have experienced trauma need a safe and caring adult to help intervene when they respond to some emotional trigger in the classroom. In their book Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom, authors Kristin Souers and Pete Hall detail six communication steps that are helpful when addressing student in crisis (pp. 79-82):

  1. Listen.  While it may be difficult to not immediately interject in a heated moment, it is best to listen carefully to what a student in crises is telling you. Often the student is conveying an important message about what triggered the response, whether it is exhaustion, prior bad experiences, a belief system, preconceived notions, or fear.
  2. Reassure.  A student in crisis needs to know that his/her perspective is important.
  3. Validate.  A validation is an acknowledgement that you hear the student. A validation is not an acceptance or approval of the student behavior.
  4. Respond.  Respond by explaining your observation of the incident. A response is not a time to defend your position, but it is a time to share your perception of the situation.
  5. Repair.  A repair could be simply expressing that you are sorry the student is having the experience at this time. If you believe you somehow caused a trigger response, a heartfelt apology may be in order.
  6. Resolve.  A resolution is an opportunity to work with the student to develop a new way of behaving in the classroom so another trigger response is not exhibited. This may require behavioral changes on the part of the student, the teacher, or both.

As you plan for your week ahead, think about how you can partner with students to create a safe, caring environment that will allow for positive and productive classroom outcomes. You and your students will benefit greatly!

Be Prepared!

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preparedChildren who live in chronic states of stress and trauma often have difficulty coping. In many instances, they respond by creating chaos, because they are trying to control their environment. By creating a disruption, the students are moving their attention away from what is causing them stress and focusing their attention on something external.

In their book Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom, authors Kristin Souers and Pete Hall identify several measures that teachers can take in the classroom to help minimize the disruptions created by students acting out (p.63-64):

  1. Prepare students for the beginning of the class or activity. Develop and maintain a consistent, structured routine.
  2. Support learning for the students who create disruptions. If you have identified a student or two who create chaos, make their desks the first stop in your trip around the room and provide feedback. Circulate back to these students frequently.
  3. Provide training and support in peer tutoring and cooperative learning. Help students help themselves by creating a classroom network of support.
  4. Involve disruptive students in the operation of the classroom. Provide an assigned role every day to help these students feel involved.

Have a plan, avoid power struggles, and know your students. Build strong, positive relationships. In so doing, you can help reduce stress, and create a safe environment for yourself and your students.