How to become trauma-informed

I came across this image on Dr. Jim Walter’s twitter feed this week and found it to be a good representation of the journey to become trauma-informed. Once we are able to think about the experiences of school from the perspective of a child who has experienced trauma, we are “trauma-woke” to how insensitive some of our standard school practices are.

Many people that I talk to are in that stage of being "woke" to the need for change, but aren’t sure how to impact change outside of their direct work with students. This week on the blog, I am answering a question that I hear frequently:

“I know being a trauma-informed school requires a system-wide approach, but my administrator and/or team members aren’t on board with the idea. What can I do?”

First of all, thank you for being here and your passion for doing what is best for all kids. It can be a lonely place when you feel like you are in a fight all by yourself. Don’t be discouraged! All movements happen when one person believes. You can make a difference and change can happen because of your efforts. Keep the faith!

I want to give some ideas of how you can ignite a spark increase trauma-informed practices in your building:

  1. Read/Listen: On a daily basis there is more information being released on the concept of trauma-informed schools and the best place to start is to learn about the different models are being practiced across the country. I have compiled a resource list that provide some books, article, podcasts and webinars that are a great place to start. Sign up to receive the resource list here.

  2. Book study: Pull some of your buddies together and do a book study. It will give you a great excuse to get together with your work friends for lemonade/mojitos on the deck and really take the time to talk through the material together. My recommendations for a book study would be The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Bruce Perry or Lost at School by Ross Greene.

  3. Find your tribe: Sometimes it can feel that you are alone in this journey, but that simply is not true. Actively seek out others who want to learn more. Some recommendations on where to find those people would be through Twitter, professional development opportunities and district or building committees that support positive school climates. I would love to have you follow me @resilienceimpct on Twitter and would also recommend @drjimwalters, @brucedperry, @ti_pbs, @shevtech, @principalest. @sporlin, @dr_treisman

  4. Professional development: Another way to influence the system in which you work is to participate on the professional development committee at your site. Being part of this team will provide you influence on the training emphasis at your site. One way to encourage training around trauma-informed practices that I have found helpful is to survey staff on what they want for PD offerings. In my experience, the most requested training by training is for topics such as classroom management, positive behavior support, mindfulness, social-emotional learning and mental health. All of these topics support a trauma-informed model and are a great way to bring speakers and PD into your building that could help build awareness.

  5. Attend a conference: I would also encourage you to seek out funding from your staff development committee to attend conferences on trauma-informed practices in schools. We are hosting a the Trauma-Informed Schools Institute in Rochester, Minnesota on November 1-2, 2018 and would love to have you join us. If you join our email list we will be providing a discount code that will allow for staff to register at 50% of the regular price of registration, so please look for that email on August 1st when registration opens.  If Minnesota is too far to travel, there are trainings being offered in all parts of the country. Again Twitter is a great way to hear about these opportunities.

  6. Offer to do a staff presentation: Another way to double up on this investment, is to offer to present to staff upon your return about what you learned at the conference. Often one session or speaker will really stand out to you and this provides a great opportunity for you to share how you have implemented what you learned.

  7. Host a movie screening: Another great way to increase awareness is through a movie screening. Paper Tigers is a movie that shares the story of a high school in Walla Walla, Washington as it implements trauma-informed practices. It is a great way to building awareness and spark a conversation about trauma-informed practices in schools. The movie is available as part of the subscription service Amazon Prime Video or available to rent on YouTube for $3.99. A couple of other great movies are Resilience or May I Be Happy, but both are at a significantly higher price.

Have you tried any of these ideas? I would love to hear about it. Please reach out on Twitter or Facebook.