Creating the trauma-informed classroom
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are a more common childhood experience than you might think.
Nearly one-quarter of all American children suffer an adverse childhood experience by the age of four, and half of all children enrolled in school have sustained at least one trauma.
Traumatic experiences may include abuse, neglect, placement outside the home, the death or incarceration of a caregiver, surviving natural disasters, undergoing serious or life-threatening medical procedures, and suffering from critical accidents.
Any trauma can have a negative impact on a child’s ability to form healthy relationships and participate in a structured learning environment. Therefore, it’s more essential than ever that teachers develop an understanding of the social and emotional needs of traumatized children.
That’s why one elementary school in Nashville, TN is doing something to support students with ACEs. Fall-Hamilton Elementary empowers kids for success by building strong relationships.
The faculty and staff at this elementary have committed to teaching the whole child in an effort to help every student build resiliency. All students learn leadership skills, and they work at building their social and emotional capital. The school also teaches mindfulness through sensory stimulation. Teachers use essential oil diffusers, low lighting, and color to help their students be mindful. Every classroom has a peace corner where student can take a few moments to chill or practice the techniques they’ve learned in class.
The faculty at Fall-Hamiltion has learned something important about themselves, too. They take time for self-care and supporting each other so they can be at their best when working with students.
How you can create a trauma-informed classroom environment
Trauma-informed classrooms, also called trauma-sensitive classrooms, create a safe environment for learning. Most importantly, the trauma-sensitive environment takes a holistic approach in teaching students how to respond to daily learning situations.
Consider implementing some of the follow strategies in your classroom:
- Create shared understanding among the faculty and staff. It’s essential that you learn as much as you can about supporting children with ACEs.
- Teach students coping skills they can use anywhere. These skills may include mindful breathing, journaling, or other strategies to reduce anxiety.
- Give students multiple opportunities to practice the skills they are learning. Your students will need these skills outside of school, too, so your classroom should be the first place to practice them.
- Provide children with safe spaces where they can reflect and collect their thoughts. They may include flexible seating in the classroom or benches at recess.
- Follow through. Many children who have suffered trauma are conditioned to expect that the adults in their lives will let them down. Don’t be that adult. If you say you will do something, then do it.
- Develop rapport with your students and build healthy relationships with them. Check in on how your students’ day has gone, and celebrate the successes, no matter how small they may seem.
Schools that support trauma-informed classrooms see immense benefits from their work. As a result, they witness reductions in behavior infractions and improvements in academic performance.
Perhaps most importantly, students have a sense that someone cares about them.