When I talk to other teachers about my school, I often hear, “well, you’re small enough that you can do that.” There’s an attitude that we have a luxury of being small and well-staffed – so we can pay attention to things that public school teachers can’t.
Yes and no.
While we certainly benefit from our staffing ratio, there are strategies we use in therapeutic schools that any public school could put into effect with minimal legwork that go miles in their support of all learners. These changes range from small things, like teachers offering differentiated break opportunities in class, to large rethinking of school structures like discipline/suspensions/expulsions.
This article from the New York Times’ Opinionator column describes some of the work being done in the field right now in creating trauma-informed schools. It’s a good introduction for teachers or schools just beginning to think about how to incorporate trauma-informed practices into their systems and structures.
In a month I’ll be facilitating a conversation at EduCon Philly on Understanding, Intention, and Awareness: Lessons For Everyone From a Therapeutic School. My basic feeling is this: what we do at our therapeutic school isn’t a proprietary “program,” an expertise that takes years to develop, or a secret methodology. It’s an understanding of where our students come from, an awareness of how we bring ourselves to the work, and an intention crafted with the student’s needs in mind. Trauma-informed, special ed-informed, just informed in general we can all move our schools forward with some self-reflection.
If you’re at EduCon, I look forward to starting the conversation with you all. If you won’t be, let’s connect! How do you think we can move our schools toward more supportive practices for children with trauma histories?