Trauma invested

Trauma invested education, part 4

Part 1, Part 2 , & Part 3 of Trauma Invested Education series based on the Fostering Resilient Learners institute. My hope is that my learning helps your journey to supporting all students along their educational journey. 

The start of a new school year is coming. For some, you’ve already started. For others, it’s coming. For me, I have students Monday and can not wait.

The truth of the matter is, though, that our students need to be connected. They need to be connected with staff, they need to have a culture of safety built into their campus, they need to have a champion in their corner, and they need to feel safe. Relationships are the cornerstone of the work that we do with our students. You have an opportunity to build the connection every day. Why not take advantage of the opportunity to connect with your students? 

The more connections a child has (school, home, community), the better the student does.

Something that all educators need to understand is that behavior stems from an unmet need or from lack of safety. When students come back to school, we want them to learn. However, our students come with unmet needs every day. They have school anxiety, nerves are heightened, and students don’t know their schedule or routine yet. It’s challenging and nerve racking for adults as well. Remember that kids do well when they can and so do adults. You have to give yourself some grace, y’all. It’s a necessity. You can be the most scheduled as one can be but what our students need is grace and time.

Must have GRACE

Something that educators need to realize is that students struggle with the unknown. The new school year has a lot of these. New transitions, new teachers, new classmates, and an overall new feel. Add in the 5 senses of new and students will either implode or explode if their needs aren’t met. It’s not every student but it’s something to keep in the back of your mind. Lots of grace, people. Lots of grace is what you need from day 1 to day 180. You need it and they need it too.

We experience world through our senses.

We have important work as educators and it is time for us to take on the role of more than just an educator. We are educators who build relationships with our students, create a culture of safety, and a culture of building students up every day. We also have an opportunity be THAT person with our students. The one who fosters a relationship, is the champion for our students, and cares every single day. I challenge you to be that person for your students this year. 

Kids who are connected to one person in their school do better.

Every day, we have an opportunity to connect with our students. Every single person has a story untold and it is YOUR opportunity to unfold it this year. Build the relationships, cultivate a culture of safety, support one another and be someone’s relationship every day. Someone around you counts on YOUR support every day. 

You can do this—and for your students' sake, you must, because this culture of safety is far too important to leave to chance, to leave to someone else, or to leave off entirely.

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Trauma invested education, part 3

Part 1 & Part 2 of Trauma Invested Education series based on the Fostering Resilient Learners institute. My hope is that my learning helps your journey to supporting all students along their educational journey. 

Trauma does not discriminate nor does it come with a playbook per student. It is known that the more adverse childhood Experiences (ACEs) a student has the more it will affect them. So how we respond to their needs matters.

It makes 33 milliseconds for people to process facial expressions on others.

Our students watch our every move. What our face looks like when we experience emotions or see something is easy for them to see. Mel Robbins notes it makes 33 milliseconds for people to process facial expressions on others. Think about that for a minute. When we are working with a tough situation, whether it is with a student or not, our face can say it all without us meaning to show it. Flat affect or showing no emotion is something that is vital when those working with students who are escalated or unregulated. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard. I’ve been there. However, what I do notice is that students feed off of us when they are unable to be regulated.

When working with students who are experiencing difficulties, sometimes that pushes our own buttons. It’s not intentional (hopefully) but certain situations can cause us more stress. If you notice that a student’s behavior or actions are getting to you, looking at their the behavior and why it affected you goes a long way. Keith Orchard, Associate of Fostering Resilient Learners & LCSW, suggests that we must be mindful of our own triggers and reflect upon behaviors as time goes on. It promotes reflection for us and mindfulness as someone working with students day in and out.

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Working with students who have trauma is a tough job. Something that is vital for their success is creating a therapeutic web around them to support THEM. It may look different based on the student and their needs. However, we must find ways to build students up and support them for who they are. It can be tough but it’s vital to create a support web to assist students every single day. If you’re not sure what to do, I highly recommend you ASK students what they need to support THEM. Giving students encouragement and support is key. It takes time to build up the student and support them but you have an opportunity every day.

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So what about the students that fear relationships adults? What then? You still have to create a web of support but it will look different. Read the student’s cues, back off when there’s a need, and get on their level. Support them through parallel play or activities, match their activities (such as coloring or playing with a game or activity) and let them come to you. Their experiences have made them react based on the past. However, YOU will have to find ways to support them. It will definitely take time. Be patient! The relationship will come.

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Our work is important for students. They need us daily. It’s why we do what we do. Relationships carry us along the way. They are a priority, they are two way lanes, and how are you building partnerships with both sides. Celina Brennan, Principal at a Trauma Invested school, notes that while we can’t put a value on our students, we can have overreaching values that we, as a staff and collective community, can use to support the community we serve in.

Bottom line, iis vital for us to strength based, focus on relationships, and prioritize learning for all. We are relational with people & are someone’s relationship. Own it daily! Create the web of support, notice when you are being triggered, and make time to be reflective and mindful that our work with students is vital every day.

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Trauma invested education, part 2

To read part one of this series, please click here. Originally, I thought I could condense the information in three posts. While it may be a small possibility, I may be doing more than 3 posts in this series due to the amazing content and inability to condense the information. 

My mind was flooded with information from two days at the Fostering Resilient learners institute. My hope is that my learning helps your journey to supporting all students along their educational journey. 

Kids don't learn if they don't feel safe; adults don't teach if they don't feel safe..png

Let’s start with what we want our students to have at school to be successful. We want them to have an opportunity to learn. We do this by creating an inviting and safe classroom. Souers & Hall as well as their associates spoke highly of creating an environment that is safe, predictable, and consistent. Students thrive off of consistency and need to feel safe to learn. Something else that I took to heart was the common language for all staff members. There are a variety of programs out there that many schools put into place such as Conscious Discipline, PBIS, Restorative Practices, and more. However, we must all be consistent in using the same language in what we practice, teach, and expect in our schools every day. I am not saying we can’t use these programs. I am saying we have to all have the same language for predictability, consistency, and safety for our students to succeed.

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So now that we know there needs to be a culture of safety, let’s talk about consent. Consent for true, trauma-invested schools is all in. It’s not a few or most teachers, it’s everyone. That takes time. It’s not something that will happen overnight. It’s also not something that can be put upon someone. Everyone has to be on board. You have to build it in, have legitimate commitment as a practice, and support the whole community and team.

One of the biggest needs in our school today is GRACE. Not only do our students need it but we do too. Think about it this way. A student has a moment and says something that you know they say in the heat of the moment. Instead of punish what is said, you give grace. Not only does that strengthen your relationship with the student but you form a bond for the next time. It doesn’t fix the difficulty but it may give YOU insight on how to work on the next encounter. We must give grace!

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Next, let’s talk about the language we need our students to grasp. Our students need to know and grasp the concept of their upstairs brain and downstairs brain.

Upstairs-Downstairs-Brain_Blog-01.pngImage credit: Dr. Siegel & Dr. Tina Bryson
Used with permission from Momentous Institute

Do you know the differences or do you need a video to explain it to students in kid friendly speak? Here is the video linked from Washington State University’s Child and Family Research Unit. Our students can come to a point where our students will flip their lids. They are in their downstairs brain. I also highly recommend the book, Fostering Resilient Learners, to explain more and to understand the brevity of the brain, what our brain does in the upstairs/downstairs brain, and how it works.

I want you to think about a time where a student reacted and you attempted to talk to them. How did that go? Probably not well. When students are reactive, we must be proactive.

Think about it this way. When there is little to no control over emotions, students can not be logical at this point. They are in their downstairs brain and must take steps to go back up. Think about a staircase. The downstairs brain is the flight, fight, freeze response when there is a loss of control or heightened response. The upstairs brain considers processing and functioning to move forward. It’s a process to move from the downstairs brain to upstairs brain.

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Bottom line, we have to use common language across the board to support our students. To be trauma invested educators, we must have consent (all in, every adult), common language, grace, and the opportunity to create a nest for our students to learn and thrive in before they are ready to soar with tools necessary for their success. It’s not about us, it’s about the students in front of us every day.

Everything we say to and do with our students and families must be done solely for their benefit, not our own. It's never about us..png

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Trauma invested education, part 1

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This will be a three (or more) part series to change the lense of current practices & movement toward trauma invested practices and bringing the human back into education. Join me along this journey.

I was first turned to Fostering Resilient Learners last summer as I had read the book Fostering Resilient Learners by Souers & Hall and wanted to support my students more. My school did this book as a campus book study during the 2018-2019 school year and I continued to follow both authors and jumped at the chance to attend the Fostering Resilient Learners institute in Tacoma, WA this week & enjoyed it. My hope is that my learning helps your journey to supporting all students along their educational journey. 

Starting with the word trauma can be a loaded term. Trauma has been defined some as being part of or experiencing violence as well as a wide variety of events that have changed from generation to generation. The truth of the matter is that trauma does not discriminate nor does it matter if it is violence or long term versus short term.

Copy of Trauma does not discriminate. It happens everywhere—across all races, religions, socioeconomic levels, and family systems. - Copy

Trauma is a word that affects so many of our students. Every single one of our students, I venture to say, have experienced some sort of trauma. It doesn’t have to be violence or abuse. It can be something that someone sees or experiences.  Trauma is also defined as an exceptional experience in which powerful and dangerous events overwhelm a person’s capacity to cope (Souers & Hall, 2018). Trauma happens. How we move forward and support students with trauma truly matters.

It does not take an event for students to experience trauma. - Copy

So the question is what are we going to do to move to supporting students with trauma?

First, we must understand that some practices that have been in education are actually trauma inducing to students and we must move past these. Souers & Hall discussed the four I’s of trauma and what they look like in classrooms today. Interestingly enough, Trauma invested is what we should strive for when seeking practices in our schools. I’ll be honest and note that trauma informed is something I’ve heard and read often. Invested, however, is a new ballgame for me. However, it makes sense when you stop and realize the nature of each of the four I’s of trauma.

The four I's of Trauma (1)

However, the shift from trauma informed practices to trauma invested practices is determined by the amount of staff willing to be consistent and determined to, not only, support students but to invest in this idea as a consistent practice. Trauma invested is something that takes effort, time, and every adult to be on board and transparent. Being transparent and reflecting upon my current knowledge, I believe my campus is at the trauma informed stage. We still have a ways to go and need to get everyone on board consistently. While the idea of supporting students through fostering resilient learners whole heartedly is there for some, it’s not all at the invested stage.

While I want to get there tomorrow, I understand that it takes time for every single adult to be on board. It’s something I hope we can strive for in the future. Take a minute to reflect on what your campus is doing and where you land on the four I’s of trauma.

Something that really resonates with me is the understanding that trauma invested practices are not something that’s a one size fits all model. It’s not a curriculum or workbook staff can complete to move on. It’s not on a checklist or grading document. It’s a practice that brings humans back into education. It’s the heart of schools to see students as individuals who have experiences along their educational journey and lives. It’s educators and staff understanding and investing in students every day as a whole. All in, consistent, and human practice all in.

Trauma invested

Bottom line, our students all experience trauma. How we act, respond, and move forward matters. Trauma is a word, not a sentence (Souers & Hall, 2019) and it’s time to bring the human practices back into education for the success of our students.

Only invisible can do impossible

Trauma blog imThis blog post is apart of the #pd4uandme July blogging Bingo
Image created by Pam Hubler 

 

 

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Redefining self care

As educators, we care for others. Make more decisions than the average joe and still put ourselves behind when life gets going. We make excuses and don’t always treat ourselves the best.

However, this can not go on for very long. It will not end well, trust me. Burning the candle at both ends, not caring for YOU will not end well. Self care, though, is a HUGE umbrella that encompasses many ideas others will tell you to do to be up to educating students and others day in and out.

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You will have (well intending) colleagues tell you to get enough sleep, take care of yourself, practice self care, and more. However, at the end of the day, what looks great for someone may not be the other’s cup of tea. Self care is defined as care of one self when you look it up in the dictionary. It’s broad, it’s unlimited, and it really should be defined by each person.

Therefore, I am redefining self care for me. I may not like to run or spend time in the heat if I don’t have to. Others may choose that and it shouldn’t be a popularity contest or competition. But I do have things that fill my cup and make me refreshed such as taking nature photography and spending time with family’s dogs. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s a-okay! It’s for the care of myself that makes it worth it.

The bottom line is that WE must define self care for ourselves. It’s a MUST in our field and we have to do it without accepting our well intending colleagues ideas if they’re not our cup of tea. It’s okay! Take charge of your self care today.

Redefine what self care looks like for you! You deserve it! 

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Pd4uandme1This blog post is apart of the #pd4uandme July blogging Bingo
Image created by Pam Hubler 

 

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Why relationships first

Imagine a new classroom full of students you don’t know and you’re given a guide to teach with, lessons to utilize, and given the green light to start your new year. Now imagine a classroom full of students that don’t know you and struggle with learning. This was me in late elementary and early middle school. A struggling learner too shy to speak up and too afraid to mess up over and over again. A learner who craved to learn but didn’t want anyone else to see me struggle. I had teachers that didn’t catch my learning difficulties and I struggled to trust the next teacher.

The classroom environment can bring anxiety and stress to so many students. Students that struggle with someone new knowing their story and understanding how to teach them. Students that have had bad experiences and are cautious to let someone new in. New teachers understanding that their lessons may not fit students who are struggling academically, emotionally, socially, physically, or within a few of these. When students are given something to do and are already uneasy about the situation, escalation of emotions can occur. It’s not personal; it’s a reaction to what the student is given. It’s a response to the situation. While it may not be appropriate, it happens.

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As teachers, we are told to get to know our students. We are told to character build and include all students. Inadvertently though, we can cause a fire storm right in front of our eyes. Providing activities that we feel will strengthen the classroom environment can cause students to doubt if they can succeed in this classroom. The struggle is real for so many of our students and we have to remember relationships over content first. We are in the heart business and must educate the hearts of our students to educate with content second.

What does that look like? It starts with investing in our students through love. Love to be included in their classrooms, love to feel safe, and love to trust you. Can it be a long road? Absolutely! However, your students will know you love them as your actions and words bring them back to your room day after day. If you pour out love to your students, it will make a difference and build your relationship with them.

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We’ve all heard the phrase “relationships first” and go with the flow. However, relationships are the foundation for having students learn the content in your area. If there’s no relationship, no trust with your student, the content won’t be grasped to the capacity needed to obtain mastery. You will be spinning in many directions without the relationship first. You and the student will endear many frustrations that could have been avoided if the relationship was build upon first.

You can’t speak into someone’s life until you build a relationship with them.

Looking back, I had a few superhero teachers who did it right and some that didn’t. Being a struggling learner who had a multitude of learning challenges, the teacher that made the most difference on me built the relationship first. They talked to me and listened, they noticed when I struggled, they encouraged me to keep going, and they cared.

Build upon the relationship from day one, listen, and be apart of the student’s journey as a learner and not just the teacher of record.

 

 

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You are their constant

Over my years in education, I’ve noticed something. Students come to us for love, education, support, and (some) consistency. Our students’ emotional well being depends on us being their constant day in and out. Every year, the last sentiment holds true whether students are in my classroom or in another class.

As educators, we can’t control what our students see outside the four school walls but we can try to keep the constant when they are in school. We can support THEM, encourage THEM, and celebrate THEM every single day. Are there days it is harder than others, of course! However your every action, word, and notion is noted in your student’s world. Some come to us for education and that’s fabulous. However, you have many that come to us for some much more and the time is now to clinch that responsibility. Love your students, support THEM, and be their constant.

Rita Pierson hits the nail on the head as she advocated for ever kid to need a champion. YOU can be someone’s champion today as they learn to figure out their lives in and out of schools. I truly believe our students come to us for a reason and that makes them champions in our hearts. Seeing their struggles, their triumphs, and their grace is amazing.

My students love must. It’s encouragement for them and a song they will replay. Our students get the music, they listen to it on their off time, and look up to so many artists just because of what they say. Why not find a medium for them to be encouraged through and with every day. Our students are CHAMPIONS every day. They overcome so much and, this year, we’ve found encouragement through this video.

Our students rely on US to be their constant every day. To love, to listen, to encourage, and to support THEM every day. Why not clinch this honor, rise up, and be their constant every day. THEY depend on it for their time with you. Be their constant every day!

Every child deserves a champion—an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be

 

 

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Facing the challenge

Facing the challenge & overcoming circumstances

Imagine, for a minute, you are a ten year old student who doesn’t read well, is in fifth grade, and is struggling with academics, emotions, and fear of the unknown for eight hours a day at school. Imagine being given assignment after assignment, being told to read material, and feeling the angst of not knowing how day after day. Imagine, for a second, how the struggle of defeat day in and out felt for a student in your classroom or school now.

I was that student in fifth grade. I remember that gut wrenching feeling of failure and shame of not really knowing how to read well day in and out. I was tested in elementary school but didn’t really fit the mold of the ranges to be a person with a specific learning disability at first. Through the tears, the worries, the fears, and the trials, my parents didn’t give up. I, on the other hand of ten, wanted to badly.

Days and nights of frustration filled my soul. The lack of confidence, since I didn’t know how to read, engulfed me. I struggled. I needed support and I had just that when I hit rock bottom. My family chose to go outside of the district to have me diagnosed since the school district didn’t and, at that time, found out that I learned slower than peers my age, had Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Specific Learning disabilities, and a slew of other issues. Finally, an answer to the struggles.

These labels didn’t define me though. They give me a reason to fight back along the way. The labels gave me a reason to understand why I learned differently and struggled. The labels and struggles opened the doors for the support I desperately needed. Looking back, I wish the school district would have intervened earlier or had helped sooner. However, this fuels my fire to continue to face the challenge of learning disabilities and barriers along the way.

It took one person to say what I was going through wasn’t okay. It took a team of professionals one opportunity to recognize that what I was going through needed to be remedied. It took time, lots of patience, tutoring, and more patience to allow me to read and be able to understand what I read.

However, no one gave up on me and, for that, I am truly grateful for this notion. There were long hours, frustrations, tears, and struggles. The struggles didn’t magically go away as I encountered middle and high school as well as college. I just learned strategies and self advocacy along the way. I now serve a Special Education teacher. However, the struggles gave me fuel to help others so no one would have to sit in my fifth grade seat and feel like I did to this day.

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There is always a reason for a trial. Whether we know it now or have to find it along the way, it’s there. It’s unending, undefined (at the moment), and untamed. However, there is a reason somewhere along the way. I never want any student to ever go through what I did and this empowers me to fuel the fire, kindle the flames, and never give up on any student. They deserve more than I received and that’s why I do what I do every day.

 

 

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Value the spark

Something I value when working with students is seeing their spark and ability to learn moving forward. Their acceptance of people makes me smile. Their tenacity, their will, their desire to know more, and their energy. They make me question what I do, how I teach them, and how I bring education to them. They make me who I am today.

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Educators have the ability to kindle the light of education every day. We see the light bulb moments, the struggle, the breakthroughs, and the victories. We get a front row seat to see amazing things happen and the journey through every journey. Do we value that, though? Do we celebrate and promote the GOOD we see every day just because? Do we value the spark that we cultivate and grow every day? If we do, fabulous!

If not, why not?

On the opposite side of those triumphs and flames are dedicated teachers who cheer on students every day. They kindle the light, give their heart and soul, and matter. You are not unnoticed. You provide guidance and support along the way. You are a vital part of that flame that we call education in the path of greatness. You are not unnoticed and WE, the educational community, SEE you! If you haven’t heard it in a while, thank you for kindling the flame of education and valuing the sparks around you!

Add it all together

Every single one of us have that potential to value the spark within and around us. It’s a choice yet is there for us all to grasp moving forward. It’s raw, real, and overwhelming. However, why not take the challenge? YOU have the potential to notice what’s around you and value the spark leading the way in education.

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Savor the calm

Calm: a state of being or action that one can feel, see, or act upon.

Yesterday, I took a drive to Texas Tulips after an appointment & was taken back by the calm of the field of tulips. The colors, the smells, and the sights. It was a gloomy day and on the cooler side but the flowers were radiant and really made it worth the drive.

The fields of tulips struck a cord with me as I attempted to not slip in the mud. A simple field of flowers can brighten my day. It can make me stop and appreciate the good around us.

Savoring the calm is a choice. A choice I take every day. Life gets crazy, don’t get me wrong, and deadlines and stress can creep in. At first, it can be okay and then you’re overwhelmed quickly. It’s a vicious cycle.

However, savoring the calm is a necessity of life. It’s a way to step back and relish the good around us. The good that keeps you sane. The good you look forward to. The good that surrounds you day in and out. The good that is around us all if we just stop and savor the calm.

Savoring the calm and be more than tulips or flowers for others. However, it’s a necessity of life. If we don’t slow down and savor what’s around us, we will miss it. Something we can help our students and colleagues around us notice. It’s as simple as a conversation. There’s good all around us. Have you stopped to savor the calm lately?