Respond Embracing Trauma-Responsive Practices

We applaud all school leaders who are creating a sense of urgency for discipline reform. You are developing a guiding coalition to Realize the problem of exclusionary discipline and the impact trauma can have on students, families, and staff. You have also begun fonning and communicating a strategic vision that Recognizes the influence of implicit biases and trauma within your school or school division. Working with an inclusive culture that values self-reflection and courageous conversations, you must now embark on what is arguably the most challenging part of the process: determining how to Respond.

According to the Missouri Model, “trauma-responsive organizations have begun to change their organizational culture to highlight the role of trauma. At all levels of the organization, staff begins rethinking the routines and infrastructure of the organization” (Missouri Department of Mental Health and Partners, 2014, p. 4). The process of Responding to the needs of all students involves empowering others to act and generating quick wins (Kotter, 2012).

Discipline Reform Model

Figure 6.1 Discipline Reform Model: RESPOND (Kotter, 2012; Missouri Department of Mental Health and Partners, 2014; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Sendees Administration, 2014)

102 Leading Trauma-Responsive Discipline Reform Role of the Principal

When a principal provides the guiding coalition and all faculty/staff with the ideas, support, and resources to be successful, the impetus for change will be contagious. Sharing promising data, frequently highlighting success stories, giving regular positive feedback, praising students, and making positive parent phone calls are some effective ways to maintain collective momentum.

Anderson, Blitz, and Saastamoinen (2015) suggest leaders must look beyond traditional “one and done” professional development. Joyce and Showers (2002) recommend classroom coaching, which increases the chance a teacher will use new practices in the classroom by 95%. Although most schools do not have staff with the sole responsibility of coaching teachers in the use of trauma-responsive practices, trauma-responsive leaders within the building can partner and support teachers daily through their own modeling, observation, and targeted feedback.

High-quality professional development for instructional assistants is also important because they often work closely with students impacted by ACEs. Finding ways to involve other support staff (e.g., bus drivers and cafeteria employees) creates an inclusive environment where all members Realize and Recognize their contribution to a trauma-responsive culture.

Pui-tle (2018) conducted multiple experimental studies evaluating the relationship between trauma-responsive professional development and student outcomes. The studies revealed that trauma-responsive professional development appears to improve staff knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors; however, it becomes less clear if too many initiatives can be sustained for a significant period of time. Professional development should enhance versus overwhelm teacher self-efficacy. Accordingly, some of the leaders we interviewed chose to implement one practice at a time, slowly introducing trauma-responsive practices that educate the whole child. Other leaders combined practices to best fit their school context and students’ needs. All leaders used data to select practices to support their strategic vision.

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