Top Five Takeaways: Trauma-Informed Transformations in Education
Schools and classrooms are the heartbeat of our communities — at the intersection of learning and of life’s challenges. These challenges and high levels of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are a daily reality; and how schools and educators adapt and respond with a trauma-informed approach is critical to learning outcomes.
To acknowledge and address these present challenges in schools and classrooms nationwide, a gathering of more than 75 medical, health, business, and education providers from Washington D.C. to Cincinnati to Portland, Oregon, gathered Nov. 14-16, 2017 at Concordia University-Portland.
The conference, led by Building Community Resilience (BCR), brings together members of BCR’s national collaborative who seek to improve the health and life outcomes of children, families, and communities. BCR’s home base is the Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at the George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.
Trauma-Informed Transformations in Education
“Trauma-Informed Transformations in Education” was the topic of one panel, moderated by Wendy Ellis, and featured representatives of Concordia’s new model for education called 3toPhD®, including: Kimberley Dixon, Faubion School Family Representative; Chuck Eggert, Basics; Dr. Susan Dierauf, Kaiser Permanente; Jennifer McCalley, Faubion School; Sheryl Reinisch, Concordia University; Jamie Vandergon, Trillium Family Services; and Gary Withers, Concordia University.
Check out the five biggest takeaways from this insightful panel. (And if this is the first time you’re hearing 3toPhD®, read this first!)
1. Circle up
When trauma rears its head in any form, Faubion School’s Principal McCalley shared that they “circle up” as a team — early and often — to check in with each other, and ask themselves “What do the children and families need?” and “How should we talk about it [the trauma]?” Often, acknowledging and re-establishing the need for feeling safe is the first step. The team works to verbally reassure students about safety, communicate with families about safety, and take steps to increase safety when necessary.
2. Take a trauma-informed approach
As Kim Scott, CEO of Trillium Family Services, put it, “Schools are the future wellness hubs of our communities.” Trauma-informed care incorporates a culture of equity, safety, and ‘radical inclusion’ that boosts student outcomes. It allows schools to move to positive, instead of punitive, responses to student behavioral issues, improve reading scores, and reduce absenteeism. A culture of self-care and collective support for students, teachers, and families, results in better learning outcomes.
3. Build community trust
Invite the community in, and take a pulse on how they are feeling. The 3toPhD® initiative was developed during more than 26 community meetings. Now, a “living room” and “welcome hall” greet those entering the school.
Community leader Kimberley Dixon shared, “Change comes from the heart, from caring about the person.” A personal approach to trauma acknowledges and addresses an issue without judgment. For example, instead of “why haven’t you been to the doctor?” ask, “What does it feel like not to have seen a doctor about this?” Schools can provide resources and training in trauma-informed care for families, so parents and community members learn how to talk about trauma, and remember that it’s OK not to have all the answers.
4. Show up, Stay involved
Focus on the community’s strengths and encourage them to keep showing up by listening and incorporating their input. “Our secret sauce is breaking down the wall of distrust and inviting community members in as collaborators,” shared Concordia University’s Gary Withers, referring to the 3toPhD® initiative. Provide opportunities for people to ask “why,” to learn, to advocate, and to remain involved.
5. Be willing to turn on a dime
Adverse experiences and trauma are often sudden and unexpected. As a principal, teacher, parent, or community leader, you have to be willing to adapt and respond quickly. “We cannot get complacent,” said Gary Withers. “The current environment underscores how important our mission is [to prepare leaders for the transformation of society].” Kimberley Dixon added, “We all have to check our biases.”
Watch a video about how 3toPhD® and its collaborators — Portland Public Schools’ Faubion School, Concordia University, Trillium Family Services, Kaiser Permanente and Basics — take a trauma-informed approach.
And if you’re interested in taking a graduate program focused on trauma and resilience in educational settings, learn more about our Curriculum & Instruction program that’s focused on trauma-informed teaching.
Madeline Turnock, APR joined Concordia University-Portland in 2010 and is currently the Strategic Communications & Partnerships Advisor.