All worthwhile intervention starts with assessment. In order to know if what we are doing is working, we have to know where we started and where we are trying to get. Many times, school leaders and staff consider implementing trauma-informed practices in response to a crisis but the problem with a “quick fix” perspective is that it results in a short-term solution. Being trauma-informed is about a culture change that requires assessment, strategy, short-term benchmarks and long-term planning. While certainly changes can be made quickly with rewarding results, we must not lose sight of the long-term goal to shift the culture and mindset of an entire system.
Last week on the blog, we covered the Essential Elements of a Trauma-Informed School. This week we are digging deeper into those seven elements to understand what are the key components of each element and how do we assess our current practices. For each element, I have outlined 4 questions about school practices in that area to guide reflection regarding current practices. It is imperative that we reflect and consider our current practices, beliefs and culture as we implement change. I have created a tool to assist you in this process along with a pdf fillable form that will help you capture your thoughts.
The first step in moving towards becoming a school that is trauma-informed is to first consider what your school is already doing to implement these seven elements. Most schools will have strategies that they are already using that can support their efforts in being a trauma-informed school and it is important to consider how those efforts can be bolstered to build momentum in your school’s journey. By increasing the fidelity and understanding of how these strategies are trauma-informed, the school can use these “quick wins” to build support and a sense of effectiveness in building a school culture that supports the needs of all students.
Within each of the seven elements there are four essential questions that we have identified that will be answered within the organizational assessment to determine the focus of your plan for becoming more trauma-informed.
Trauma prevalence and impact:
- Do students, staff and families know about the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences and the impact it has on cognitive and behavioral development?
- Private logic of student: When a student behavior occurs, is the private logic of that student considered? Do school staff seek to understand the interaction from the perspective of the child?
- Compassion for those with a different story than our own: How do we respond differently to staff, students and families when we know that they likely have had adverse childhood experiences as part of their story?
- Regulation: Do opportunities exist for students to learn and practice regulation of emotions and modulation of behaviors?
Multi-Tiered Systems of Support:
- MTSS for Academics: When students struggle academically, are there well-defined systems of support available that guide how staff and families will provide support?
- PBIS Tier 1: Are staff implementing Tier 1 interventions that support all students? Examples: 4 to 1, positive greeting at the door, morning meeting, peace corner
- PBIS Tier 2 & 3: When students struggle emotionally and behaviorally , are there well-defined systems of support available that guide how staff and families will provide support?
- Data based decision making: Are there systems that identify students in need of support early? Is an appropriate intervention identified that matches the student need? Is progress monitoring in place? Are interventions working?
Engaging & Affirming Instruction
- Student voice & choice: Do students have voice and choice to make decisions that impact them throughout their school day?
- Culturally Responsive: Are instructional practices responsive and affirming to the cultures of students and families?
- Universal Social-emotional learning: Are universal social-emotional skills being addressed through direct instruction?
- Behavior Expectations: Are behavioral expectations taught proactively and retaught when expectations are not met?
Reason to Be:
- Purpose & meaning in work (staff): Do staff feel a sense of calling and/or passion for their work?
- Future orientation (students): Do students have an understanding that present learning impacts their future goal attainment?
- Shared vision: Are there shared vision, goal and strategies that the school staff are collectively working to accomplish?
- Trauma stewardship/self-care (staff): Do staff recognize the impact their work has on their own well-being and actively seek to care for themselves and colleagues?
- Belonging: Do staff, students and families feel a sense of belonging and positive connection?
- Sleep, exercise & nutrition: Are students and staff getting recommended amounts of sleep, exercise and nutrition as needed for their development?
- Mental health: Is there access to trauma-competent services for prevention, early intervention, treatment, and crisis intervention from mental health providers?
- Mindfulness: Is mindfulness being taught, practiced and encouraged as a way to build resilience in the school day?
Family & Community Engagement:
- Family Engagement: Does the school create strong school-family bonds that support learning in a culturally relevant manner?
- Family Connection: Do families feel connected to the school and support their child’s learning?
- Community Partnerships that support learning: Does the school have strong collaboratively partner with community agencies that foster learning?
- Partnerships with community agencies that meet student and family needs: Does the school have strong collaboratively partner with community agencies that meet student and family needs?