L'Instant du Mentorat
Ogden Community School TLLP:
Our TLLP is focused on “Understanding the Impact of Mental Wellness on the Effect of both Student Behaviour and Capacity for Learning”. We have attached a visual that we created which is intended to provide an overview of our TLLP goals and sub-goals. As of late, we have been focusing on the effect that trauma can have on our students’ lives, specifically on their behaviour and their capacity to learn.
Our team primarily works at a school where a large percentage of students arrive from ambient trauma in their environment, their homes and their families. Many are in foster care and have experienced multiple placements. Many live amongst poverty, substance abuse and familial fragmentation. There is a high probability that many students in this community have survived, or are surviving at present, childhood maltreatment.
We recognize that this environmental trauma follows these students into the classroom and into each relationship they create. We also recognize that although our school may have a much higher percentage of students who experience such trauma, ALL schools in our system have some portion of their staff and student population who have experienced, or are experiencing, significant trauma in their lives. Our goal is to create an understanding of the impact of trauma on behaviour and potential for learning, and to create trauma informed and sensitive environments in the schools.
Recently, as part of our TLLP, we invited Jules Alvarado, founder and president of Coaching for LIFE, to visit our school, and to facilitate a one day workshop for our TLLP team. Julie is an international consultant with 20 years of extensive experience in coaching with respect to mental health, wellness, trauma informed care, teaching and learning.
At the workshop, we learned a great deal about trauma and stress – how they manifest themselves physiologically and how impact a person’s ability to react. The following excerpt is from the report prepared by Ms Alvarado after our workshop,
What we know about trauma:
Trauma can impair learning.
Single exposure to traumatic events may cause jumpiness, intrusive thoughts, interrupted sleep, moodiness and social withdrawal. Chronic exposure to traumatic events can adversely affect attention, memory and cognition; reduce a child’s ability to focus and organize; interfere with problem solving and may result in feelings of frustration and anxiety. (NCTSN: Child Trauma Toolkit for Educators 2008)
Building a trauma sensitive environment is a never-ending, evolving and creative process that has the power to change the life of everyone involved. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a committed and united trauma sensitive education system to provide the opportunity for wounded children to learn, heal and thrive.
A traumatic experience impacts the entire person—the way we think, learn, remember, the way we feel about ourselves, about other people, and the way that we make sense of the world…
The childhood reaction to trauma
Trauma affects how children feel, behave and think. Trauma affects a child’s beliefs about themselves and adults, but also impacts their beliefs about the larger community, the world, and relationships. Trauma and chronic traumatic stress interrupt a child’s learning, overriding their higher level reasoning skills at a time when they are just developing. Regardless of the source of the traumatic stress, the outcome is the same. Children develop reasoning and behaviour that is illogical and sometimes dangerous.
Traumatized children may experience physical and emotional distress
This may include headaches and stomachaches, poor impulse control, inconsistent academic performance, over or under-reacting to bells, physical contact, slamming doors, lighting or sudden movements. (NCTSN: Child Trauma Toolkit for Educators 2008)
Children who have experienced trauma develop coping mechanisms during times of increased stress and trauma, many of which are later viewed as unhealthy or maladaptive, but these mechanisms or strategies are what kept these children alive when they were faced with fear and threat. These mechanisms have a lasting impact on how children understand and respond to various situations throughout their lives.
Think of these mechanisms as “tools” that traumatized children carry with them through their life in an invisible suitcase. These tools are all the children know and when they enter a new home, classroom, family or situation, the children will open their suitcase and grab a tool to help them survive or cope. Think about what tools might be in some student’s backpacks? If we want to create an educational environment that is trauma sensitive - ask yourself, “How can we re-pack this suitcase with safe, positive experiences?” and “How can we promote healing and resilience in the student by helping them feel safe, capable and likeable/loveable?”
Understanding how children respond to trauma is the basis for creating a place of sanctuary in which children can learn. Creating safety and security in the schools is only possible when we all understand the nature of both individual and organizational trauma. Everyone in the entire school system must actively work together to build and nurture a community and environment where healing and learning can thrive hand in hand.
The initial phase our TLLP project was centered on research. As a team, we used print, web and human resources to develop an understanding of the ways that students’ mental health affects learning. The current phase of our project involves embedding simple strategies into our classroom and school cultures. These may be in the form of teaching strategies, subtle sensory to the school environment, and simple exercises that teachers and students can partake in. In January, we will be conducting a voluntary 30-day trial period and attempting to document and evaluate any changes in student engagement and learning. The final phase of our TLLP will involve sharing our findings with our colleagues at Ogden Community School, with other schools within our board, and eventually, with other TLLP teams at the Ministry sharing session in November 2014.
Please feel free to contact myself, or any other team member, if you have any other questions or concerns.
Teacher Leader: Tom Boland, Special Education Facilitator, Ogden Community School, Thunder Bay
Team Members: Kristie Clock, Classroom Teacher, Ogden; Jennifer Hordy, Classroom Teacher, Ogden; Joel Levesque, Student Support Professional, Ogden; Lori Carson, Special Education Supervisor, LPS.