Becoming Trauma Informed

Thanks to the Illinois Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics, members from Abbott, Kimball, Larkin, and Gifford Street were able to once again delve into some of the science and systemic issues related to the effects of toxic stress on student learning. Those that volunteered to go through this training have helped the conversations at their sites, and also, helped us determine what might be helpful for all members in this important research.

The message is clear. Students that are experiencing ongoing daily trauma cannot engage in traditional learning. The solution is not simple and every classroom teacher has known that. This cannot be treated as yet another fad or initiative. This has to be about really understand the learning challenges of our students and letting the classroom professional make the teaching decisions we need in order to accommodate those challenges. We need supports and resources, not more directives. Again, this we all have known, but what we did not know is how to change that dynamic.

Last year, those of us on leadership that attended the IEA RA heard for the first time about the ACE study and brought that learning back to members. When I heard about the IEA Southland Initiative, I reached out to our administration and teacher leaders, asking that we consider this as a path to finally impacting the increasing classroom challenges of students’ behavior concerns. We were able to sit in on some of their work. That led to an opportunity to bring experts in medicine and research here, along with the documentary Paper Tigers. Now the District has purchased that documentary and has begun to offer more opportunity for all U-46 staff to begin the conversation.

March 4th was our 3rd day of work with the ICAAP and our member volunteers. They provided the brain research and a framework for organizations to begin to evaluate where we are. This is a start, but certainly we need more. Our members quickly identified that this larger look needed to get to specific strategies. So, I also had conversations with the IEA. This June, the IEA will provide their first roll-out of a Trauma School Model professional development day for members in the northern area. Again, the focus will be on having site teams participate. I have been working with them so that ETA can host this event. The details will be coming out soon and I hope many of the ETA will attend.

The U-46 administration is supportive in this work, but we will need to continue to examine this as not just an individual teacher issue, but an issue of culture and systems. I have attended the U-46 Alignment Initiative and those community partners are also interested in providing supporting resources. How to do this will take time, but certainly the hard work can lead to much needed coordinated efforts.

Again, this is a start, and made possible because colleagues were willing to work together to make thoughtful change to improve our classrooms and support our profession. Thanks to our sites that participated and those that want to continue to move this conversation forward.

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