Creating a stronger sense of community can help students facing trauma
- A personalized learning model does not always accommodate the needs of students who have experienced trauma in their lives, Jon Hanover, founder and executive director of Roots Elementary School, a charter school in Colorado, writes in Ed Surge.
- He discovered that the school’s individualized program of instruction, which was yielding good academic results, was also fragmenting the school's population and failed to provide enough emotional support for traumatized students.
- The school now employs “habits of success coaches” to focus on the social and emotional needs of students and is adjusting staff roles, schedules and physical spaces to help students feel more safe and connected in the learning environment.
Students in some schools face more than their share or trauma in their early years. Young children are increasingly exposed to home situations characterized by domestic violence, gang violence, drug overdoses or parental arrests. When home does not feel safe, it is even more important that students feel safe and connected at school.
Though trauma is technically a mental health issue, the reality is that students have a difficult time learning when they are facing crisis situations or are emotionally fragile as the result of trauma. For schools that have a high percentage of students dealing with trauma, having staff members on hand to help deal with these issues is imperative. This may come in the form of habits of success coaches, as in this school, or in the form of counselors or social workers who are trained in helping students cope with trauma. Trauma-sensitive schools, another approach, are designed to offer greater support to students in schools where these issues are more prevalent.
Another interesting takeaway from this article was the demonstration of one weakness of individualized learning plans. While such approaches might work well with well-rounded, independent learners, schools can lose a sense of community in the process. School leaders may need to make sure they build in enough common instructional time or group team-building activities to foster that sense of classroom community and support that may be lost as students pursue individual learning goals.