Posted: February 26th, 2023
Considering the knowledge learned from previous articles regarding trauma think of at least two trauma informed teaching practices and interventions that could be presented to educators or school principals. Reflect about at least one support person within the school who colud help assist educators with the practices or interventions. Examples include school social worker, school counselor, or a mental health professional to assist with the implementation of the trauma-informed teaching practices and interventions. See the attached articles below.
Trauma-informed practices in a laboratory middle school
Heidi B. Von Dohlen, Holly H. Pinter, Kim K. Winter, Sandy Ward, & Chip Cody
Keywords: democratic classrooms, middle schools, social-emo- tional, trauma-informed practices, trauma-responsive
This We Believe characteristics:
● Educators value young adolescents and are prepared to teach them.
● The school environment is inviting, safe, inclusive, and supportive of all.
“One out of every 4 children attending school has been exposed to a traumatic event that can affect learning and/or behavior” (The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2008, p. 4).
Understanding and responding to the developmental needs of young adolescents has long been the bedrock of the middle school concept. As stated in This We Believe (National Middle School Association [NSMA], 2010), “The curriculum, pedagogy, and programs of middle grades schools must be based upon the developmental readiness, needs, and interests of young adolescents” (p. 5). The Every Student Succeeds Act (2015) opened the door for state and local policy makers to address safety and mental health issues, which includes trauma, on a more substantial level. This includes providing tools, funding, and organizational infrastructure to assist students, and providing learning supports for them to succeed.
Schools struggle to adequately support students experi- encing trauma, adversely impacting students’ learning and social success. School officials and policy makers must first seek to understand the impact of trauma, and then provide support to mitigate the negative impacts trauma has on our students (McInerney & McKlindon, 2014). The National Association for School Psychologists (NASP, 2015) reported children spend much of their day in school where caring adults are available to help them. Therefore, schools have important roles to play in providing a stable safe space for children and connecting them to caring adults. For schools to be trauma-responsive, however, educators must observe and respond to classroom behaviors through a different lens (Terassi & de Galarce, 2017).
Cole, Eisner, Gregory, and Ristuccia (2013) asserted if educators had at least a foundational knowledge of the research on trauma, they would not only be able to opti- mally support students in trauma, but also those impacted by their peers’ trauma. Trauma-responsive educators are present and focused with their students, aware of students’
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body language and non-verbal cues, calm in their interac- tions with students, remain positive even when students are off-task, provide structured routines, and de-escalate students’ emotions while remaining in control of their own emotions (Walkley & Cox, 2013).
This article explores how a laboratory middle school (LMS) serving students from low-performing elementary schools and students with academic or social-emotional challenges is developing as a trauma-responsive school. The authors explore the literature, school/community context, three students’ cases, and the ways in which classroom and school-wide practices are trauma-informed.
Three main types of trauma include acute, chronic, and complex. The NCTSN’s Complex Trauma Task Force, a collective of professionals representing a dozen univer- sities, hospitals, trauma centers, and health programs across the United States first explored he term complex trauma in 2003. This term emerged from the recognition that many people experience multiple adversities over the course of their lifetime (National Child Traumatic Stress Network Schools Committee, 2008). Some examples of trauma cited by NASP (2015) include violence, abuse, neglect, terrorism, and traumatic loss.
In a longitudinal study conducted on rural adoles- cents, researchers found two out of every three children had experienced a traumatic event by their 16th birthday (Copeland, Keeler, Angold, & Costello, 2007), and “one in
five adolescents has had a serious mental health disorder, such as depression and/or anxiety disorders, at some point in their life” (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Adolescent Health, 2017a). Students exposed to trauma experience higher levels of depression, anxiety, and other impairments (Copeland et al., 2007).
Despite clear scientific evidence, our education system has largely ignored issues related to trauma and learning (McInerney & McKlindon, 2014); however, neurobiologi- cal research proves exposure to childhood trauma causes brain and hormonal changes and impedes learning and social-emotional development in children and adolescents (Judicial Council of California, 2014; Urban Education Institute, 2017). Trauma can negatively impact grades, absences, and reading ability, while increasing discipline issues leading to suspensions and expulsions. Trauma impairs learning by negatively impacting attention, mem- ory, cognition, focus, and organization. Additionally, trauma can cause physical and emotional stress in students such as headaches or stomach aches, poor control of emotions, and unpredictable behaviors (National Child Traumatic Stress Network Schools Committee, 2008).
Schools often identify trauma when a student demonstrates aggressive behavior. Schools are primarily reactive to students experiencing trauma after a significant behavioral incident occurs; however, educators can help prevent aggressive behavior by “ … being aware of stu- dents’ emotional states and responding with proactive de- escalation classroom management practices. Actions as simple as greeting students at the door and asking them to complete a daily mood chart can help teachers under- stand and react better to students’ behavior” (Urban Education Institute, 2017, p. 21). Trauma-responsive edu- cational practices acknowledge schools as safe spaces with trusting relationships between students and educators, understand trauma and how trauma impacts children’s brain development and behavior, utilize proactive beha- vioral supports, de-escalate challenging student behaviors, and keep students in the classroom (Walkley & Cox, 2013), and support educators to utilize self-care to miti- gate the impact of trauma-related stress on themselves (Jennings, 2019).
It is important to note that not all experiences of trauma lead to a traumatic response or trauma-related disorder or diagnosis. But when signs and symptoms of traumatic stress endure over time (one month or longer), disrupt a child’s or adult’s daily life, impact their social and emotional health, and meet specific diagnostic
criteria, the impacts of trauma can be far reaching (National Child Traumatic Stress Network Schools Committee, 2008). For youth involved with the juvenile justice system, the prevalence of youth exposed to com- plex trauma is believed to be higher than their same-aged peers (Judicial Council of California, 2014; Wolpaw & Ford, 2004). One study found over 90% of juvenile detai- nees reported having experienced at least one traumatic event (Arroya, 2001). Children experiencing poverty are especially susceptible to experiencing multiple adverse experiences (McInerney & McKlindon, 2014).
The NCTSN (2008) identified observable behaviors for middle school students experiencing trauma. Some of these behaviors included anxiety, fear, and worry; irrit- ability; angry outbursts; withdrawal; increased absentee- ism; changes in academic performance; avoidance behaviors; over- or under-reacting to physical contact, sudden movement, and noises such as bells or doors slamming. Additionally, the NCTSN cautions educators to also be aware of students who may not demonstrate overt symptoms of trauma, and therefore, do not receive the support they need. With support, students can recover from trauma within a few weeks or months, while others require support to heal over a longer period of time.
Childhood trauma can have a negative impact on many parts of students’ lives including academic pro- blems, behavioral issues, emotional problems, and tru- ancy. These negative impacts, combined with mental health or substance abuse make students much more likely to become court-involved (Judicial Council of California, 2014). Trauma can also significantly alter our brain’s function and the high levels of stress triggered by trauma can impede development (Judicial Council of California, 2014; Walkley & Cox, 2013)). Terrasi and de Galarce (2017) found a strong likelihood that added stress compromises a child’s executive functioning abilities. Without the full development of executive functions, stu- dents will struggle with concentration, language acquisi- tion and processing, decision making, and memory. Children in trauma often experience deficiencies in abstract reasoning, impulsiveness, and developmental coordination disorder (Damian, Knieling, & Ioan, 2011).
Just as trauma may impair cognitive functioning, it may also lead to difficulties with social and behavioral functioning which manifest as often-misunderstood beha- vioral problems in the classroom. Students may display impulsive, aggressive, or defiant behaviors. Such beha- vioral difficulties may result in harsh disciplinary practices,
involvement of the justice system, or school dropout-par- ticularly as schools struggle to accurately assess and iden- tify trauma and the associated symptoms (Smithgall, Cusick, & Griffin, 2013). Schools are two times more likely to retain students experiencing trauma. They also score lower on standardized tests and are more likely to be placed in special education programs (Cole et al., 2013).
Although trauma can have negative effects on stu- dents’ development and functioning, adolescents can be resilient with support from caring educators in safe school settings (Judicial Council of California, 2014). Although no single program exists to promote resiliency in youth, schools, along with other family and community efforts, can play a role by providing effective interventions and approaches which foster resilience in trauma-exposed youth (Moore, 2013). Schools can be trauma-sensitive by maintaining routines and giving students choices. Clear behavioral expectations and recognition of behavioral issues can help to mitigate disruptions to learning. Schools and educators can help by providing a safe place for students and developing awareness of environmental cues which may trigger a traumatized student. Shortened assignments, allowing additional time to complete assign- ments, and providing support for organization are other ways educators can mitigate the effects of trauma for students (National Child Traumatic Stress Network Schools Committee, 2008).
Finally, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network Schools Committee (2008) cautions educators who work with traumatized students to be aware of compassion fati- gue since working directly with children experiencing trauma can cause secondary traumatic stress to profes- sionals. Educators should resist working in professional isolation by seeking support from peers while maintaining confidentiality of the students. And one of the most important steps an educator can take is to seek help with his or her own personal traumas, and practice self-care.
School background & connection to whole school, whole community, whole child
Our state, regional university (SRU) designed and cur- rently operates a laboratory middle school (LMS) for 6th, 7th, and 8th grades as a school within a school in a local high school building. The SRU designed LMS in partner- ship with the local school system to explore innovative teaching approaches and applied learning opportunities that will help every student discover his or her full
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academic potential. At the beginning of the second year of service, LMS framed the scope and context of needs, data, and direction in the fact that no historical trends had yet been established. Congruent with research on trauma- sensitive schools by Craig (2016), LMS is working toward development as a trauma-responsive school focusing on safety, empowerment through choice, and collaborative partnerships between students, faculty, and staff.
State legislation guiding laboratory schools dictates that students must meet certain qualifications to be enrolled, including residency in the county in which the school is located, previous enrollment in a low-performing school, or student identification as not meeting growth through various criteria (such as test scores, grades, or lack of achievement gain). Students may also meet an additional low performance category which includes a myriad of criteria: met end-of-grade proficiency, but earned poor grades; labeled twice exceptional as eligible for special education services; exhibited extreme behavioral issues; demonstrated lack of growth progress over time and/or did not meet growth targets; experienced social-emo- tional issues or contextual factors such as trauma, familial issues, etc.
LMS is located in a rural county with a population over 43,000; the state, regional university is its biggest employer. The population is majority white at 83%, while Native American is the largest minority group with almost 10%. The projected median household income is approximately $42,000. Eighty-eight percent of adults in the county have a high school diploma or greater, and 30% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
The current enrollment of LMS is 56 students: 22 females and 34 males. Approximately 75% of LMS stu- dents were enrolled previously in county public schools and 25% were either home schooled or enrolled in another school district. Approximately 76.8% of students identify as White, non-Hispanic; 14.3% identify as multi- racial; 5.4% Native American; 3.5% Hispanic; and none who identify as African American or Asian American. In addition, 21.4% of the LMS population is labeled as Exceptional Children (i.e., special education), 4% have 504 plans, 9% are gifted (several of these students are twice-exceptional, meaning they receive both EC and gifted services), and 48% receive free or reduced lunch.
The culture of the school reflects the collaboration with SRU by accessing resources and personnel. LMS students have access to daily health and physical education, regular music and arts activities, leadership experiences, and mentorship from experts in a variety of academic fields. Some SRU academic programs that support activities reach well beyond teacher education, including parks and recreation, international programs, music, theater and studio arts, engineering, school counseling, as well as business and leadership. These enrichment activities and clubs encourage students to learn more about themselves and others, as well as contribute to the school community. Collaboration with the local high school and SRU exposes the students to high school-aged students as well university interns and volunteers. SRU has strong partnerships with the local community as well as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) since the campus is located on Cherokee land.
One significant barrier to wellness for adolescents is lack of mental health services. Deficiency in services is largely due to the stigma and cultural norms associated with psychotherapy or counseling. Furthermore, rural areas in the United States, much like the setting of LMS, have fewer adolescent psychiatrists (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Adolescent Health, 2017b) and adolescents living in these areas are less likely to receive mental health services than adolescents living in urban areas (Lipari, Hedden, Blau, & Rubenstein, 2016).
As a university laboratory school working in coopera- tion with the local county school system, LMS is located within the local high school campus. SRU’s partner school system provides the physical space, bus transportation, food services, technology support for student devices, and classroom instructional technology as part of a memorandum of agreement and lease between the uni- versity and school system. With space at a premium, it is often difficult to reserve locations for smaller groups, which is a need for diagnostic assessments, school coun- seling sessions, speech language or physical therapy, tar- geted academic interventions, and enrichment activities. These barriers, at times, hinder professional services available to students. Because of the space needs, SRU and the local school system have expanded the partnership to include a large, additional space for reservation within the
high school. This redesigned space now includes a classroom of 15 to 25 students, a conference area, small group tables and chairs, and more. Our hope is that this newly available space will at least partially address space as a barrier.
The authors present three students below who exhibit behaviors associated with trauma. The cases articulate the student experiences and illustrate varied strategies that educators may employ when working with students experiencing trauma. These young adolescent students come from different backgrounds and their behaviors manifest in unique ways within the day-to-day life of school. One year into the existence of LMS, various ele- ments of success have emerged for each of these students. LMS staff and SRU faculty stakeholders have explored new systems of support. Even though challenges still exist, classroom, school-wide and specific, individually-focused trauma-informed practices help students navigate their middle school experiences and increase resiliency within the school day.
Damien. Damien is a highly mobile student who changes schools about every two years usually associated with his ever-changing home life structure. At the end of any given school day Damien and his teachers are often uncertain as to which caregivers’ home he will return. There are daily questions about who, if anyone, will be there to greet Damien. When at his father’s house, Damien reports that he is left alone to either work at his father’s business or to care for his two young siblings. While Damien reports having a good relationship with his mother, she lives farther away and is not a consistent presence in his life. Their relationship seems to consist of friendship rather than a parent/child dynamic. Damien’s grandmother is a consistent and supportive adult in his life. Teachers readily note when Damien stays with her, he shows up to school in clean clothes with a healthy lunch, which is not common with mom or dad.
At his previous schools, Damien was in the office or in-school-suspension more often than in the classroom. Although he has well above average academic abilities, Damien struggles in the context of a traditional classroom. He meticulously analyzes most elements of the classroom, from the activities to the way teachers interact with him, and he constantly questions why systems exist and why systems which to him, hold no logic or value constrain
him. Damien often gets frustrated when he feels as if teachers are not considering his ideas or questions and he often characterizes his teachers’ verbal interactions with and toward him as dismissive. Damien’s frequent absences seem to make him feel endlessly lost in class, as if despite his best efforts, he is consistently behind. He has limited coping mechanisms for frustrations, and continuing vio- lent, aggressive, verbal outbursts typically result in Damien’s removal from the classroom. LMS teachers continue to work to find solutions to deescalate Damien’s explosive, verbal reactions to frustration.
Damien has historically struggled in his relationship with his teachers. There are moments where LMS faculty perceive his words as threatening and hurtful. Nevertheless, he is a 13-year-old boy with cognitive abilities well-beyond his years despite an unstable family support network and an inability to communicate in a calm man- ner. Teachers have worked closely with mental health professionals, the school interventionist, his caregivers, and each other to consistently support Damien’s needs. Ongoing interventions range from attempts to meet basic needs, such as making sure the snack pantry is stocked when Damien arrives at school hungry to those strategies targeted at his academic needs, such as implementation of a 504 Plan in his second year at LMS. Teachers look for ways to communicate with Damien during instruction in order to maximize positive interactions. They talk as a team to pinpoint triggers that elicit heightened struggles during instruction, and experiment with communication strategies that might diffuse these tense situations (including avoidance of certain words or phrases). For example, if Damien gets frustrated during discussion, tea- chers have found general coping mechanisms such as “take a deep breath,” or “I hear what you are saying,” exacerbate Damien’s frustrations rather than diffuse them.
Julie. Julie is an eighth-grade student who has experienced multiple sources of trauma that contribute to her struggles in school. Julie’s grandmother primarily supports her as her mother does not have the financial means to support Julie in addition to her other children. Physical challenges throughout Julie’s life have led to multiple surgeries to help her walk. While her physical condition limits her at times, she can participate in most activities provided by LMS. In her prior schools, Julie was reported to exhibit attention-seeking behaviors by engaging peers negatively, stealing items from peers and teachers, and disengaging from academics. Teachers
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perceive Julie as guarded and they attribute this characteristic to Julie’s personal experiences outside of school. She does not trust others easily and will put on a “tough girl” facade at times. This is sometimes problematic in her interactions with other students who see her actions as mean and hurtful. She has suffered bullying for many years and her coping mechanism is to bully others. Beyond the physical and social challenges she endures, Julie also requires an Individualized Education Program to provide academic support in reading, writing, and mathematics instruction, as well as physical therapy on a bi-monthly basis.
In Julie’s case, teachers at LMS have found the most beneficial way to support her is through relationship- building. While this is often true with adolescents, the behaviors attributed to the trauma in Julie’s life make personal relationships key to making strides toward aca- demic and social goals. Teachers have found small-group instruction whenever possible best meets this need. Additionally, the school has worked hard to create opportunities for Julie to be involved in developmentally appropriate social activities. Julie has developed a strong relationship with the physical education teacher. Because of this relationship, Julie has joined the school’s Girls on the Run (n.d.) club that integrates running with building confidence and empowering adolescent girls. Julie recently participated in a 5K race and is also active in the theater elective.
Nate. Nate also has a set of unique attributes impacting his school experiences. He comes from a large family structure including both parents, three siblings, grandparents, and several other women he refers to as “step-moms.” Nate’s family struggles financially and his mother is a full-time student at a local community college. Despite challenges, Nate’s family really desires success for the children and all family members try to support each other whenever possible. One of Nate’s largest barriers to success in prior school years has been a lack of impulse control. He is animated and energetic, and these qualities have contributed to disciplinary issues. One incident even involved Nate running away from school. In the first weeks working with Nate, teachers found him to be fiercely protective and loyal to his friends, excited about learning, but unorganized. With the school’s commitment to social and emotional development, teachers made intentional efforts to utilize positive framing and language techniques to recognize Nate’s strengths. In terms of academics, the teachers recognized the need to push and challenge Nate
because keeping him engaged in learning would diffuse some of the negative behaviors exhibited in school. In year two, the teachers highlight Nate as one of the biggest success stories: he has emerged as a leader among his peers, he is respectful in the classroom, and he is challenged academically as one of a select few students who participate in Math 1, a high school level course. Nate has indicated he notices the teachers at LMS are more accepting of a variety of students than what he has observed at former schools. Additionally, he appears to have benefitted from a wider range of academic choices and has indicated he feels more supported in this new environment.
Implementation of trauma-informed practices Schools utilizing a whole-school approach of trauma-respon- sive practices, including democratic processes, validate the voices of allmembers of the school community and promote healthy relationships and resilience in children (Blitz, Yull, & Clauhs, 2016). SAMHSA identified trauma-informed organi- zations as those that realize the impact of trauma, recognize the signs of trauma, respond by integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices, and seek to actively resist re-traumatization (2018). SAMHSA also identi- fied six key principles of a trauma-informed approach: “ … safety, trustworthiness and transparency; peer support; colla- boration and mutuality; empowerment, voice, and choice; and cultural, historical, and gender issues” (2018, p. 10). These six principles are evident in the structures LMS has established to create a trauma-informed school. Some of the structures LMS utilizes to engage and support students aca- demically and social-emotionally are: A Community of Care Committee, an evaluation committee, daily homeroom meetings, monthly whole school meetings, student govern- ment, democratic classrooms, project-based learning, and individual intervention and enrichment activities. We describe these structures below.
The community of care
LMS adopted the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD, 2014) Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model as a framework for creating collaborative school/community relationships and improving the learning and health of all students. From this framework the development of a Community
of Care is evolving in which laboratory school personnel, college of education faculty, and community-based pro- fessionals coordinate supports to address students’ aca- demic, physical, and social-emotional needs. The goal of the Community of Care is to create a greater alignment between academic performance, health, and social-emo- tional development to provide a framework for creating school-community relationships focused on integrated services. SRU graduate counseling students, overseen by SRU Counseling Faculty, facilitate whole groups and provide individual counseling to students. Whole group sessions focus on topics such as social-emotional growth, conflict resolution, decision-making, goal setting, and peer interactions. In particular, the Community of Care seeks to emphasize the following core values: (1) utilizing experiential learning to guide students toward deep understanding; (2) focusing on health and well-being, specifically social and emotional development; (3) building a democratic community and embracing social justice; (4) developing cultural responsiveness within and outside of the learning community; (5) embracing the ideals of student-centered assessment; and (6) building family and community alliances.
The evaluation committee
An SRU faculty member leads an evaluation committee to inform academic and social-emotional initiatives at LMS. One instrument used by LMS is the REACH (Relationships, Effort, Aspirations, Cognition, Heart) survey (Search Institute, 2018) to collect data on stu- dents’ motivation to learn. REACH identifies social and emotional learning factors. The evaluation team, com- prised of LMS and SRU faculty, review the data col- lected. The team uses this data to better understand motivational and inhibiting factors of student success, and thus provide direction for the implementation of practices in the school. These practices have a direct impact on the day-to-day interactions between all adults and students at LMS and are especially beneficial for the academic and social-emotional growth of students experiencing trauma like Damien, Julie, and Nate.
LMS implemented Democratic Classrooms and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) this year.
Building upon the work of Guldbrandsen (1998), LMS defines a democratic classroom as a place where students are regularly involved in decision-making processes regard- ing the classroom learning environment. Those decisions can include creating classroom rules and expectations, determining student and teacher responsibilities, and set- ting the goals and objectives of the class. A significant focus of PBIS has been helping students to build autonomy and empowering students through multiple opportunities such as student government and student jobs.
To begin the school year, students created lists of jobs for the classroom and they applied for jobs best suited to their individual strengths and interests. This structure empowers students to run the classroom and practice accountability as well as emphasizes student commitment to success. In the first month of school, each grade level spent time building their PBIS matrices as a group with input from students and teachers. Students also contributed their own ideas for incentives and rewards using a token econ- omy. This system allows students like Damien and Nate to have a vested interest and autonomy in the school struc- ture, helping them to feel validated and supported.
A tangent of democratic classrooms—giving students and caregivers voice in their education—is the imple- mentation of student led conferences. These conferences provide students with an opportunity to share and demonstrate responsibility for their progress as well as engage students and caregivers in conversations about school and learning. If caregivers are unable to attend, an LMS or SRU faculty member attends in their place.
Tribe (homeroom) morning meetings. Every morning, teachers facilitate a morning meeting with the whole class to review expectations and set goals for the day. Key tenants for the morning meetings are communication, cooperation, collaboration, and community. On Fridays, homerooms have extended tribe meetings to review suggestion box items and discuss emerging issues or problems from the week. Topics of discussion include peer conflict, drama, missed deadlines, problem behaviors, and organization. Tribemeetings are part of a democratic classroom process in which teachers and students talk about issues and solutions as a group. Student Government representatives also record notes and report back to their respective grade levels. This year, SRU student teaching interns also participated in tribe meetings to make sure practicing teachers were informed of student issues and all adults were working collaboratively to provide consistency
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in approach, particularly when SRU aspiring teachers were working with LMS students.
Village (whole school) meetings. The principal, teachers, students, and interns meet as a whole school once a month for a “village meeting.” Topics discussed affect the whole school including whole-school opportunities and announcements. This is a time to make sure everyone shares a common understanding of the direction and goals of the school. Examples of topics addressed at village meetings are mission statements, culture surveys, data tracking, social skills training, troubleshooting strategies, and classroom and whole school incentives. Teachers document effective communication and conflict resolution strategies through t-charts constructed with students. Student government representatives deliver a full report to the student body. Additionally, as the need arises during the month, the school holds village meetings where the entire school gathers for lunch.
The allure of Project-based learning (PBL) is in its authenticity: students are collecting data and skills from several sources and assimilating them to answer a driving question in a unique way. Projects begin with a driving question developed by the teacher to address the educational and skills standards (Hmelo-Silver, 2013). The question must be relevant and timely for the students because it provides the framework and motiva- tion for learning. The teachers introduce the PBL with an entrance event which consists of a “hook” or exam- ple, and outlines the driving question and expectations for the project. The expectations include rubrics and timelines for students to structure their work. The stu- dents then work collaboratively to address the driving problem, establish goals, assign individual roles, and conduct research. In this context, the students are leading their own learning. The teacher provides sup- port through varied formative assessments and activities with scaffolded content and skills knowledge. At the end of the PBL, students present their artifacts to an audi- ence. The students reflect on their process and talk about what they created, how they learned, and any next steps they intend to take. PBL allows all students to engage in learning that is relevant to them and it par- ticularly meets the needs of students experiencing trauma like Damien and Nate, who respond to student choice.
Intervention and enrichment
LMS’s intervention and enrichment committee is com- prised of LMS and SRU faculty. The committee meets weekly and identifies students in need of specific services. SRU teacher education majors come once a week and provide targeted intervention support for students in read- ing. An SRU Special Education faculty member and a Professor of Psychology also support this effort to monitor academic progress and LMS student attitudes towards the support and interactions with the undergraduate students. For students like Julie, remediation and enrichment time is a key feature to engage her interests and strengths, which supports her overall feelings about school. LMS and SRU faculty provide enrichment activities for academically gifted and excelling students once a week as well.
Trauma-informed practices are focused to meet individual student’s needs, and are also classroom and school-wide initiatives that meet the socioe- motional needs of all students.
trauma-informed pedagogy is good for all students. At any time in a child’s life, particularly in middle school, children experience challenges that trauma-responsive practices can likely help to ameliorate the negative impacts of in the class- room. However, for our schools to continue being develop- mentally responsive, challenging, empowering, and equitable, educators need to engage in practices through a trauma-informed lens.
for our schools to continue being developmentally responsive, challenging, empowering, and equita- ble, educators need to engage in practices through a trauma-informed lens.
It is through intentional training and utilization of trauma- informed practices that educators can continue to refine practices as we strive to challenge our students academically and support students’ social-emotional needs while simulta- neously building resiliency in the classroom and in students’ lives.
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Heidi B. Von Dohlen, Ed.D., is an assistant professor in Educational Leadership in the Department of Human Services, College of Education and Allied Professions at Western Carolina University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Holly H. Pinter, Ph.D., is an associate professor in Middle Grades Education in the School of Teaching and Learning at Western Carolina University. Email: email@example.com
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Sandy Ward is the principal at W.R. Odell Elementary School in Cabarrus County, NC and a doctoral student in Educational Leadership at Western Carolina University. Email: email@example.com
Chip Cody is the principal at The Catamount School in Sylva, NC. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Issues in Educational Research, 26(1), 2016 82
Educational support for orphans and vulnerable children in primary schools: Challenges and interventions
Teresa Mwoma Kenyatta University, Kenya Jace Pillay University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Educational status is an important indicator of children’s wellbeing and future life opportunities. It can predict growth potential and economic viability of a state. While this is an ideal situation for all children, the case may be different for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) due to the challenges they go through on a daily basis. This article aims to advance a debate on the findings of our study on the educational support provided for OVC through a critical engagement on the challenges experienced and the intervention measures to be taken in South African public primary schools context. The study involved one hundred and seven participants comprising sixty five OVC and forty two teachers. Questionnaires with structured and unstructured questions were utilised to collect descriptive and qualitative data. Findings suggest that, although the South African Government has put mechanisms in place to support OVC attain basic education, numerous challenges were found to be hindering some OVC from attaining quality education. Based on the findings, several intervention measures have been suggested.
Introduction According to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals evaluation report 2013 “Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of children leaving school early in the world with slightly more than two out of five children who started primary school in 2010 who will not make it into the last grade” (UN, 2013, p.16). While it is not clear from the report why many children would leave school early, poverty and the effects of HIV/AIDS have been known to play a big role in children leaving school early especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is a worrying trend that calls for attention from all stakeholders in education to ensure that children at risk of dropping out of school are supported to complete their primary schooling. UNICEF (2009) maintains that addressing the educational rights and needs of OVC in Sub-Saharan Africa presents new opportunities and challenges that need attention. With the abolition of school fees in public primary schools in Sub-Saharan Africa, many children are enrolled in schools. However, the number of OVC has increased presenting new challenges in handling the large numbers and in addressing their educational rights and needs (UNICEF, 2009). Due to HIV/AIDS the traditional structure of households is changing in affected communities, leaving vulnerable children to adapt to non-traditional families and poverty (Ebersohn & Eloff, 2002). Ebersohn and Eloff note that when parents die, some orphans are left under the care of aged grandparents or under older siblings to care for them. This arrangement however may negatively influence the schooling status of affected children.
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Fleming (2015) pointed out that OVC in countries with many cases of HIV/AIDS experienced discrimination in accessing education and healthcare as orphanhood is associated with HIV/AIDS. Fleming further argued that maternal and double orphans are more discriminated against in accessing education than paternal orphans (Fleming, 2015; Case et al, 2004). Such orphans experience financial constraints which further disadvantage them as they cannot afford the cost of education related materials. Vulnerable children from child headed households are burdened with domestic and economic responsibilities, which in turn affect their participation in education in relation to attending and succeeding in school (Fleming, 2015). As the number of OVC grows, communities become less and less capable of addressing all their basic needs, including their ability to go to school (UNICEF, 2009). Lack of support in education by parents/guardians will have a direct influence on how OVC perform in education (Mwoma & Pillay, 2015). Interventions to overcome educational challenges are therefore critical as education gives a child hope for life and work and is a strong protector against HIV to which these children may be susceptible. South Africa being a signatory to the Dakar Framework for Action of 2000, and to a number of other international agreements, is committed to combating poverty and uplifting people through the provision of basic education (Republic of South Africa, 2003). The government has made basic education compulsory for all children of school going age. It is to be of good quality and in which financial capacity is not a barrier to access to any child (Republic of South Africa, 2003). However, with the increase in HIV/AIDS epidemic across Southern Africa, countries are struggling to find effective means of addressing the negative impact of HIV at individual, family and community levels. The most complicated challenge is how to support the growing number of OVC made vulnerable by the direct and indirect effects of HIV/AIDS on their households (Open Society Foundation Education Support Program (OSFESP), and Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, (OSISA), 2012). In view of the challenges mentioned above, the current study sought to establish the educational support provided for OVC in public primary schools. Orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) A joint report by the United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) (2004) maintain that millions of children can be described as vulnerable due to the effects of illness, poverty, conflict, disease and accidents. In the recent past however, the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic has been the significant cause of the increase in OVC. According to USAID & Catholic Relief Services (CRS) (2008), orphans are defined as children aged under 18 years who have lost either one or both parents while vulnerable children are defined as children whose safety, well-being or development is at significant
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risk. Economic and reduced parental care and protection may lead to OVC losing out on education about how to avoid HIV infection and may be more susceptible to abuse and exploitation than others (USAID &CRS, 2008). This article highlights findings on the educational support for OVC in public primary schools with a special focus on the challenges and intervention measures. Educational support Education as recognised in the convention on the rights of the child is a basic human right for all children (Committee on the Rights of the Child, 1989). A child who has access to quality primary schooling has a better chance in life. A child who knows how to read and write and do basic arithmetic has a solid foundation for continued learning throughout life (USAID & CRS, 2008). USAID and CRS maintain that school attendance helps children affected by trauma to regain a sense of normalcy and to recover from the psychosocial impact of their experiences and disruptive lives. They further observe that education benefits individuals and the whole nation as a major instrument for social and economic development (USAID & CRS, 2008). Hallfors et al (2011) pointed out that supporting adolescent girls to stay in school increases their chances of remaining in school, hence reducing chances of contracting HIV through early marriage. This intervention further reduces chances of girls dropping out of school. They maintain that staying in school increases girls’ bonding with school and teachers which in turn makes girls feel accepted and cared for by their teachers. This motivates girls to work harder to brighten their future life (Hallfors et al, 2011). Kelly (2002) maintained that formal school education is a powerful tool for transforming poverty in an environment where HIV/AIDS are rampart. He further argued that growth in education may positively influence growth out of poverty. All learners deserve quality education regardless of their status that will equip them with knowledge, skills and competencies to increase personal earnings and contribute to economic productivity (Baxen, Nsubuga & Botha, 2014; Robeyns, 2006). Schools not only benefit the child but can serve as important resource centres to meet the broader needs of the community (PEPFAR, 2006). Schools can provide children with a safe structured environment, the emotional support and supervision of adults and the opportunity to learn how to interact with other children and develop social networks. “Education is likely to lead to employability and can foster a child developing a sense of competence” (PEPFAR, 2006, p. 9). However, Wood and Goba (2011) in their study noted that teachers perceived themselves as not adequately prepared to deal with issues affecting OVC. This was evident when the teachers tried to support OVC but encountered difficulties in transferring knowledge acquired during training to action. The teachers acknowledged that what they learned in the training helped them improve their attitudes in working with OVC.
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USAID and CRS (2008) point out that basic education in primary and secondary levels contribute to the reduction of poverty. It increases labour productivity, improves health and enables people to participate fully in the economy and the development of their societies. They further argue that children and society who lack access to quality education are disadvantaged in terms of income, health and opportunity (USAID & CRS, 2008). Behavioural problems among OVC coupled with lack of well-established counseling structures (Mwoma & Pillay, 2015) may negatively influence children’s performance in education. Thus OVC need educational interventions as they are at risk of becoming infected with HIV due to economic hardships, reduced parental care and protection and increased susceptibility to abuse, and exploitation. These factors contribute to the barriers OVC face when pursuing education (USAID & CRS, 2008). Theoretical framework This article is anchored on the theoretical underpinnings of Bronfenbrenner’s bio- ecological systems theory which holds that development reflects the influence of several environmental systems. Bronfenbrenner conceptualised the child’s environment as having different interconnected layers nested together with agents that influence the child’s development with varying degrees of directness (McGuckin & Minton, 2014). Thus, parents, guardians, caregivers and the family have a direct influence on the child‘s socialisation within the microsystem. At this level, the child interacts with his/her family face to face. The school, peers and neighbourhood form the mesosystem whose interaction with the child socialises him/her to influence his/her development. Mesosystem in this case is about the connections and interrelationships between the home and school. Parental/guardian support for OVC in this case will have a direct relationship on how the child performs in school and at home. Bronfenbrenner (1979) maintained that the family influences all aspects of a child’s development including language, nutrition, security, health and beliefs. Thus, a child who attends school is a product of his/her family. The relationships children develop in school become critical to their positive development due to the amount of time they spend in school. It is in the school that children develop relationships with adults outside their family for the first time. These connections help children develop cognitively and emotionally (Addison, 1992). OVC however, may not have such an advantage due to the challenges they go through both at home and in school that are likely to impact negatively in their education. Thus requiring education interventions that would enable them overcome these challenges. Research methodology A mixed method approach involving descriptive and qualitative designs were utilised in this study (Creswell, 2012, Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). Self-report questionnaires for learners and educators were designed to capture both descriptive and qualitative data concurrently through structured and unstructured questions.
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The study was carried out in public primary schools in Soweto. Learners in grade seven were targeted for the study as they were perceived to be able to read and answer questions in English. The study targeted public primary schools since OVC cannot afford the cost in private schools. One hundred and seven participants from seven public primary schools participated in the study, involving forty two teachers and sixty five OVC (43 boys and 22 girls). The OVC in grade seven who participated in the study were aged between ten and sixteen years with majority aged twelve (33.8%) and thirteen (36.9%). Questionnaires for educators and learners were utilised to seek information on educational support provided for OVC, with a focus on the challenges experienced by teachers in supporting these children. The questionnaires also sought information on the possible interventions that could be utilised to mitigate the challenges. The questionnaires were piloted in March 2015 in one public primary school in Soweto where nine learners and six teachers filled the learner and teacher questionnaires respectively. The questionnaires were validated using “respondent validation” (Silverman, 2001, p. 235) where participants in the pilot were taken through their responses in the questionnaire to establish whether the questions and responses matched their own experiences. Suggestions given by participants were utilised to improve the questionnaire used to collect data for this study. Actual data collection was conducted in May and June 2014. A triangulation of data sources (descriptive and qualitative data from structured and unstructured questions) and respondents (learners and teachers) were utilised to enhance reliability of the findings (Creswell, 2012; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). To enhance trustworthiness of qualitative data actual words of the participants have been used to report the findings of the study. Data from structured questions were captured into the statistical package for social sciences (SPSS) which were processed and presented in descriptive statistics involving frequencies and percentages on tables ready for analysis. Qualitative data from unstructured questions, were typed into text, coded and categorised into themes ready for analysis. Qualitative data were analysed alongside descriptive data to provide an overview of the educational support, challenges and possible interventions to mitigate the identified challenges. Ethical considerations Ethical clearance to conduct the study was acquired from the Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Education at the university where the authors were employed. Clearance to conduct the study in public primary schools was granted by the Gauteng Department of Education. Further clearance to access public primary schools in Soweto was granted by the District Director, Johannesburg Central District. Permission to conduct the study in schools was granted by the principals of schools. Written consent to participate in the study was sought from parents/guardians for learners and from teachers who participated in the study. To enhance confidentiality, no names of participants or schools are mentioned in this article. Letters of the alphabet have been used to identify the schools
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that participated while participants have been assigned codes to identify learners and teachers and the schools they came from. For instance learners are given the code ‘L’ while teachers are given the code ‘T’. Each code is given a number to show whether the participant was number 1, 2 or 3 from a given school, such as school ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’. Therefore in establishing who said what the codes will be indicated as follows: L1SA denoting learner 1 from school A, T6SC denoting teacher 6 from school C. Results and discussions of the findings The results of this study are presented and discussed under three themes that emerged from data analysis, namely: provision of educational support for OVC, challenges experienced by teachers in providing educational support for OVC and possible intervention measures to mitigate the challenges. Provision of educational support for OVC National economic development can be enhanced by investing in quality education where there are enough teachers and educational learning tools for children (Baxen, Nsubuga & Botha 2014; Robeyns, 200; Tikly, 2011). This calls for all learners to acquire quality education regardless of their status. Our study revealed that the government through the implementation of a no fee policy in schools, enabled OVC to access their basic education. This was confirmed by 57 (88%) learners indicating that the government paid their fees and 48 (74%) learners indicating that this support enabled many of them to access education. Sixty four (98.5%) learners and 36 (85%) teachers revealed that the schools provided books and stationery for all children while 46 (71%) learners revealed that different organisations provided school uniforms for them. Findings further revealed that schools through the government soup kitchens provided meals to OVC where 63 (96%) learners and 38 (90.5%) teachers confirmed this fact. Fifty eight (89.2%) learners and 30 (71.4%) teachers indicated that teachers encouraged learners who were not performing well to work hard in order to improve in their academic performance. This support is geared towards ensuring that all children regardless of their status are able to access basic education. It is observable from the above findings that the department of education, the schools and other stakeholders have done their best to ensure that OVC in public primary schools are supported to acquire their basic education. However, looking at the percentages, one can tell that there is a small percentage of OVC who are not getting the kind of support reported. Therefore it is important to explore the challenges teachers experience in meeting the educational needs for OVC. Challenges in providing educational support for OVC The challenges discussed in this section relates to: teachers’ support for OVC, provision of feeding program, and support from guardians/parents.
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Teacher’s support for OVC Schools and other educational service providers have always been aware of children or adolescents in their midst struggling to stay in school due to difficult or even catastrophic life circumstances (OSFESP & OSISA, 2012). The difficulties learners experience may be worsened if teachers are not able to identify such learners in good time for adequate intervention. Findings from our study indicated that the challenges deterring teachers from supporting OVC include lack of sufficient time for individual attention to OVC. As one teacher said, “we have no sufficient time to support individual children” (T2SA). Though the teacher did not give a specific reason why they do not have sufficient time, it could be possible that having a syllabus to cover within a given period coupled with having a large number of learners who need individual attention can be contributing factors for lacking sufficient time for individual attention. Wood and Goba (2011) noted that teachers trained in life orientation felt a sense of being marginalised by their colleagues who left OVC for them to deal with. On the other hand OVC experienced stigma which was challenging for life orientation teachers who could not prevent it from happening. The teachers also revealed that they would work for long hours so as to attend to the needs of OVC as well as attend to their lessons and assessment (Wood & Goba, 2011). Reading and writing were other challenges that OVC struggled with. Twenty six (40%) learners reported that they were not able to write like other children while 14 (23%) indicated they were not able to read like others. This was confirmed by a teacher who revealed that “some OVC struggle in reading and writing” (T3SC). This challenge could be connected to lack of sufficient time for teachers to attend to learners individually, leaving OVC struggling on their own. Without the ability to read and write the child’s learning process may be affected negatively as reading and writing are core activities in the learning process of all subjects studied in school. Lack of concentration among OVC, submitting school work late and not doing their school/homework were other challenges cited as likely to have negative influence on OVC’s education. Teachers from different schools mentioned “OVC lack concentration in school work” (T3SC), and “OVC submit their school work late” (T3SC). The experiences OVC go through at home and in school may influence how they concentrate and do their school work. Mwoma & Pillay (2015) noted that parents/guardians were not supportive to OVC in relation to homework. Pillay (2011) revealed that learners from child headed households lacked support and they mostly had negative experiences in their homes characterised by abject poverty. As a result of their poverty stricken conditions, they were often sad, depressed and angry, which could negatively affect their concentration and academic performance. Low self-esteem among OVC was found to be a contributing factor to poor performance in education as T6SA said “self-esteem is … [related to] low morale and their performances are disturbed”. High numbers of OVC were also reported to be a challenge for teachers to meet their educational needs, as another teacher stated, “the number of OVC is increasing and somehow I cannot afford to meet their educational needs” (T3SE).
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This was worsened by guardians/parents of OVC not cooperating with teachers whenever invited to school on education matters. One teacher from school E reported this by saying: “guardians do not honour their school invitations” (T2SE). Absenteeism and lateness to school were other challenges likely to negatively influence OVC’s academic performance. Teachers from different schools reported that: “they don’t come to school regularly” (T1SE); “there is poor school attendance, and they come late” (T6SB). Although our study did not focus on the reasons why OVC absent themselves from school, reasons given by Mishra and Bignami-Van Assche (2008) and those by Eberson and Eloff may apply to our case. Mishra and Bignami-Van Assche (2008) revealed that various reasons could make OVC be at greater risk of absenteeism and dropping out of school. The reasons according to them would include inability to pay fees, need to help with household labour or having to stay at home to care for sick parents or younger children. Ebersohn and Eloff (2002) also observed that the marked decline in school attendance in the South African education landscape is due to the effects of HIV/AIDS, sickness, poverty and stigma, child labour or caring for sick relatives. The reasons given could attempt to explain why OVC in our study could not attend school regularly which is likely to impact negatively in their performance in education. School feeding program Food and nutrition are important components for OVC’s support (PEPFAR, 2006). USAID and CRS (2008) pointed out that school feeding programs can enable children in general and OVC in particular to access education by addressing hunger and the need to work to survive. Findings from our study revealed that although schools had feeding programs, some OVC lacked meals in their homes compelling them to come to school without having breakfast. One teacher observed “some OVC have no food at home, they come to school hungry” (T3SB), and another said “some OVC have no breakfast when they come to school” (T7SB). Eight (12%) learners also confirmed this fact that OVC did not have meals at home. Due to lack of food at home, some OVC would even come to school when they were sick to have one meal a day provided in school. While teachers saw the feeding program as useful, learners had a different view where they reported that they are usually not served enough food at school. Learners from school A, had this to say: “my problem is having meals in school” (L3SA), “they don’t give us much food in school” (L7SA). Some schools are trying to provide food parcels for OVC to take home, but they experience further challenges in providing enough for family members. For others some OVC lacked lunch boxes to carry the food home. One teacher said “we have a shortage of resources as the school has insufficient means to meet them half way because they should take food parcels home” (T3SG), and another remarked “OVC often do not have a lunch box to carry food home” (T5SA).
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Support from guardians/parents Ebersohn and Eloff, (2002) observed that due to the death of parents and close relatives as a result of HIV/AIDS, families have been disrupted causing an increase of destitute and abandoned children in South Africa. They further argue that when parents die, some orphans are left under the care of aged grandparents or under older siblings to care for them. This was supported by findings from our study where OVC were reported to be relocating from relative to relative while others could not do their homework indicating that they lacked supervision and support in their home. Teachers from different schools reported this by saying: “other learners change their location often moving from relative to relative” (T2SE), and “they don’t have a support from the people they are staying with, especially with homework” (T1SC). Cleanliness among OVC was another challenge indicating that OVC are not supervised at home to ensure personal hygiene. Teachers reported this by saying: “they are often very dirty even on Mondays suggesting that they have no one to take care of them over the weekend” (T5SA), “some of the OVC come to school with dirty clothing” (T4SB). Sund (2006) observed that parents/guardians have the greatest responsibility to protect their children by supervising them. Being the first teachers and protectors of their children, parents have a primary responsibility of ensuring that children have a conducive social environment at home. Bronfenbrenner (1979) identified the home as the microsystem where children are socialised to learn how to interact with other social agents in society. Supervision of children by parents/guardians ensures that children become responsible and are not rendered vulnerable to the law by becoming violent to other children or by destroying property (Sund, 2006). Supervision at home could include ensuring that children are encouraged to do home/schoolwork, observe personal hygiene, and that parents/guardians work hand in hand with teachers to ensure that OVC attend school regularly as these were major negative challenges reported to be influencing the education for OVC. Intervention strategies in providing educational support for OVC The environment in which the child lives plays a critical role in ensuring that the child’s basic needs are met. Bronfenbrenner (1979) through his ecological systems theory argued that the ecological systems surrounding the child directly or indirectly influence his/her development. The system represents the family, school, the government and the culture and each of these play a role directly or indirectly in the child’s education. Neal and Neal (2013) maintained that these systems are networked where each system is defined in terms of the social relationships surrounding the child and the different levels relating to one another in an overlapping but non-nested way. They further argued that the family is a microsystem where the child has direct experiences and interactions with family members face to face. Mesosystem according to them, could involve the interaction between the parents and teachers about the child’s behaviour both at home and in school in relation to his/her education (Neal & Neal, 2013). For instance, a child may not be involved in
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making the education policies but these policies will influence the child’s school experiences. Cultural influences or ideologies may also influence the child’s educational experiences. For instance, societies that emphasise the importance of teachers being accountable on the standards of education in the community school, will have implications on how children will perform in their education (Neal & Neal, 2013). Therefore, in coming up with intervention strategies, the family, the school and the government will play a key role in ensuring that OVC are supported to acquire quality basic education. Supporting OVC with school work Mwoma & Pillay (2015) maintained that in supporting OVC, life orientation skills are critical for OVC especially those taking care of their ailing parents/guardians. However this support was missing as 54% of the teachers and 31% of the OVC indicated that they are not taught how to care for sick persons at home, implying the children struggle on their own. This may have indirect influence on their participation in education as they may not attend school regularly or do homework. Among the strategies identified that could be used to improve support for OVC with school work at the meso and exosystem levels is the need for government to employ more teachers to support OVC after school hours. One teacher stated “the Department of Education should employ extra teachers to help after school hours with school work so that they must not be left behind” (T3SC). Another said “teachers can remain with them and help them with their homework” (T1SE) Home visits and having information for OVC were reported to be further strategies that involve the micro and mesosystem levels that could be used to establish the challenges OVC go through while at home and how best they can be helped. In supporting this strategy, teachers said “the teachers should visit homes to verify and have enough information in order to support OVC accordingly” (T3SG), and “as a registered teacher, I should know the status of every learner in my class as this will make it easier to know who needs help where” (T2SD). Participants also suggested that there should be a social worker in each school, to whom OVC could be referred for further support. One teacher from school C supported this strategy by saying: “If they (government) could put one social worker in school so that when children experience difficulties, they can be referred to them” (T2SC). Learners from different schools also revealed that they needed extra time, extra lessons and devoted teachers to support them. This was captured in the following words: “We should be given extra time and extra lessons” (L2SC), “We can be helped by going to school weekend and having more teachers in the school and more classrooms” (L8SA). A learner from school G, was of the opinion that learners who cannot read and write should be given extra practice: “I think the reading problem can be solved by helping the children who can’t read by influencing them to practice harder. The ones who can’t write very well by starting to teach them spelling” (L2SG).
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Findings further indicated that for OVC to be supported effectively there is need for a collective responsibility from teachers, parents/guardians, and government to ensure that OVC are supported in their educational needs. Each of these stakeholders should play their roles effectively to support OVC both at home and in school in line with Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) findings that the home, the school, the government and the community at large have a critical role in a child’s development and learning. Provision of feeding programs Feeding children is very important in ensuring that they have energy to play and learn and have good health. Findings from our study indicated that some children came to school without breakfast, indicating that they could be starving at home. To mitigate this, interviewees suggested that there is a need to provide food parcels for OVC to take home. Teachers from different schools supported this strategy by saying: “these learners need support in totality … they need to be given food parcels on a daily basis to take home” (T4SD), and “we (the school/government) must supply these learners with more food” (T5SA). One learner from school E supported this by saying: “if I am thinking of solving the problem at home we should be given some food and soup to eat” (L2SE). This finding is consistent with Santa-Ana et al’s (2011) findings revealing that various intervention strategies to improve children’s nutrition may include the provision of vouchers to purchase food, or even the provision of cooked meals. USAID and CRS (2008) maintain that take home rations have been shown to promote participation, progression and retention of OVC in education. They further argue that, children who are not hungry are better able to concentrate in class. Therefore, providing food parcels for OVC is critical in ensuring that they do not go to school hungry. Support for OVC from guardians/parents McGuckin and Minton (2014) in supporting the ecological systems theory maintain that the environment in which a child grows up, plays a critical role in shaping the relationship between the child and his/her development. The family, school and neighbourhood has the most and earliest influence on the child’s development (Krishnan, 2010). The relationship at this level could be bi-directional. Bronfenbrenner (1979) wrote that the child’s family influence the behaviour of the child and vice versa. Thus providing the educational needs for OVC by family members and the school community is important in enhancing the educational performance of OVC. In addition, the family being the optimal environment for a child to develop, assistance programs should be designed to enable OVC to remain in a loving family situation to maintain stability, care, predictability and protection. Findings from our study revealed that, in order for OVC to get adequate support from guardians/parents there is a need for workshops to sensitise them to the need to fully support OVC with school/homework and to supervise their personal hygiene at home. Two teachers added “guardians must be taken for a workshop on taking care of the
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orphans since they are under their care” (T2SG), and “the department of education must support workshops for guardians of these poor learners” (T1SC). PEPFAR (2006) maintained that supporting families helps build a protective environment for vulnerable children. Krishnan (2010) also pointed out that what happens in a microsystem such as home where a child lives, could influence what happens in the school and vice versa. It is imperative therefore, that capacity building for guardians/parents on the importance of supporting children under their care while at home and in school is an option that cannot be overlooked. Regular home visits by social workers was another strategy deemed to be supportive especially for social workers to identify the various needs of OVC alongside the needs of parents/guardians with a view of identifying the appropriate ways of meeting those needs. Teachers stated “social workers should take responsibility by checking these OVC in their homes and support them” (T2SB), and “social workers must make follow-up visits to find out why these children do not attend school regularly” (T2SE). Identifying needy guardians/parents for OVC and providing them with social grants was another strategy cited to ensure that they are able to purchase necessities for these children to promote their personal hygiene. Two participants supported this strategy by saying “social workers should take responsibility by checking OVC’s homes to support their guardians access social grants” (T2SB), and “if I am thinking of solving the problem at home I should be given some bathing or even washing soap” (L2SE). Although it was not clear on who should provide this kind of support, the government through social grants would be in a better position to provide for this need. Conclusions We would argue that although the government has supported OVC through a no fee policy, provision of learning materials and feeding programs, more needs to be done such as engaging teachers from the community to cope with the high numbers of OVC reported in public schools. This will give teachers time for individual attention and to coach OVC after school hours to avoid challenges in reading and writing. Lack of food at home may have negative impact on the child’s health since a hungry child may not have energy to play and to actively participate in his/her learning. Therefore introducing feeding programs at home will ensure continuity of OVC having enough food at home and in school to promote their health and learning. Absenteeism from school and lateness may have negative impact on OVC’s academic performance. Research confirms that orphans from different countries in Sub-Saharan Africa including South Africa, experience lower school attendance than non-orphans (Bhargava, 2005, Case & Ardington, 2006, Operario et al., 2008). This requires government through schools to sensitise parents/guardians on the importance of sending OVC to school regularly and supervising them in their homework.
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Wood, L. & Goba, L. (2011). Care and support of orphaned and vulnerable children at school: Helping teachers to respond. South African Journal of Education, 31(2), 275-290. http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?pid=S0256- 01002011000200010&script=sci_arttext
Dr Teresa Mwoma is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Early Childhood Studies, School of Education, Kenyatta University, Kenya. She was previously a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Education and Care in Childhood at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. Email: email@example.com Web: http://www.ku.ac.ke/schools/education/faculty-profiles/faculty-profiles/89- faculty/33-dr-teresa-bitengo-mwoma Professor Jace Pillay is an educational psychologist and holds the South African Research Chair: Education and Care in Childhood, in the Faculty of Education, Soweto Campus, University of Johannesburg, South Africa. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: http://www.uj.ac.za/faculties/facultyofeducation/SarchiAtUJ/Pages/Prof-Jace- Pillay.aspx Please cite as: Mwoma, T. & Pillay, J. (2016). Educational support for orphans and vulnerable children in primary schools: Challenges and interventions Issues in Educational Research, 26(1), 82-97. http://www.iier.org.au/iier26/mwoma
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Moving beyond schedules, testing and other duties as deemed necessary by the principal: The school counselor’s role in trauma informed practices
Penny B. Howell, Shelley Thomas, Damien Sweeney, & Judi Vanderhaar
Keywords: school counselors, school culture and climate, trauma-informed practices
This We Believe characteristics: ● Comprehensive guidance and support services meet the needs of young adolescents.
● Educators value young adolescents and are prepared to teach them.
● Every student’s academic and personal development is guided by an adult advocate.
● The school environment is inviting, safe, inclusive, and supportive of all.
When considering the role of the School Counselor (SC), a variety of tasks come to mind. Whether it is school- wide scheduling, guiding students towards a future career, completing special education meetings and paperwork, or organizing standardized exams, the school counseling role is one of the most undefined in our middle schools. Surprisingly, SCs typically do not study the aforementioned tasks in their Counseling Education Programs. Instead, they are trained to meet the mental health needs of the student (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2012; Gruman, Marston, & Koon, 2013), including, among others, nurturing resilience and creating and supporting opportunities for students to overcome the barriers they often face. In some cases, administrators often leave school counselors out of administrative leadership meetings where important decisions are made about the direction of the school. The degree of trauma exposure among our ado- lescent students makes it an imperative for school leader- ship to engage in ensuring school-wide systems and practices are in place. There is no better point person in school leadership to facilitate this effort than school counselors.
There is no better point person in school leader- ship to facilitate this [school-wide trauma- informed] effort than school counselors.
26 Middle School Journal September 2019
In this article, we will reexamine the role of the SC through the lens of This We Believe: The Keys to Educating Young Adolescents (The Association for Middle Level Education (for- merly National Middle School Association [NMSA], 2010), specifically the characteristics related toCulture andCommunity (NMSA, 2010), and illuminate the many reasons their voices and perspectives are essential to school-wide enactment of trauma-informed practices. As a statewide Program Coordinator for Comprehensive School Counseling, univer- sity-based teacher educators, and a statewide Program Consultant in the Division of Student Success focused on trauma-informed practice and youth mental health first aid, we believe it is essential SCs have a voice at the table regarding school-wide decisions. Further, we also advocate that they lead the collective charge in trauma-informed practices in schools to best serve middle level students.
What does it mean to be trauma-informed? The conception of trauma-informed care emerged from the disciplines of medicine and mental health services to better respond to those with a history of trauma who were seeking their services (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 2014). Commensurate with this response was an increasing recognition of the relationship between childhood trau- matic stress and significant health and other challenges experienced later in life (Anda et al., 2006; Felitti et al., 1998). In their study of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), Felitti et al. (1998) found a relationship between childhood exposure to adverse experiences and multiple risk factors in adulthood that can result in earlier mortality. Researchers and practitioners across disciplines continue to refer to ACEs, described later, in framing their responses and supports for those affected by trauma (Wolpow, Johnson, Hertel, & Kincaid, 2016).
Now broadly adopted nationally, those responses are referred to across disciplines as “trauma-informed care” (Thomas, Crosby, &Vanderhaar, 2019). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (2014) provided a relevant approach including acknowledgement of the prevalence of trauma, recognition of the impact of these experiences on all individuals, use of trauma-sensitive practices and policies, and avoidance of actions that may re-traumatize the individual. Hanson and Lang (2016) recognized a need to look across fields involved in trauma-informed care to clarify the term
and understand how it was operationalized. As a result of their review across multiple organizations, they mapped 15 com- ponents resulting in identification of three domains: (a) per- sonnel/professional development; (b) changes within organizations; and (c) changes in practice. Middle schools fall within the larger, trauma-informed, multi-tiered child service system of care that includes the school (Chafouleas, Johnson, Overstreet, & Santos, 2016; National Child Traumatic Stress Network [NCTSN], 2017) with the SC playing a role within each domain.
Adolescent students with a history of trauma can have long term effects on brain development and suffer from more extreme impulsivity, increased difficulty with higher- level thinking and feeling as well as significant delays in academic and social skills (Whittle et al., 2013). Researchers have also noted that “exposure to trauma impairs early adolescent developmental tasks (Frydman & Mayor, 2017, p. 238). The American Psychiatric Association (2000) [APA] suggested that childhood trauma can lead to various negative mental health condi- tions during adolescence. These conditions range from posttraumatic stress disorder (PSTD), substance abuse, suicide attempts, and depressive disorders (APA, 2000; Gallus, Shreffler, Merten, & Cox, 2015).
A trauma informed middle school Consistent with This We Believe (National Middle School Association, 2010), trauma-informed practices highlight the need for schools to create an “environment [that] is inviting, safe, inclusive and supportive of all”(p. 33), implement structures so “every student’s academic and personal development [is] guided by an adult advoca- te”(p. 35), and provide “comprehensive guidance and support services [to] meet the needs of young adoles- cents” (p. 37). Most importantly, trauma-informed prac- tices ensure that “health and wellness are supported in curricula, school-wide programs and related policies” (p. 38) that benefit all students, particularly those impacted by trauma.
A trauma informed approach in middle schools means the climate and culture is grounded in an awareness of emotional vulnerabilities of this age group and strive to treat the students with respect, compassion, and support. It also means that all elements of the school such as instruc- tional choices, classroom management, and building-wide policies and practices, are integrated within the aforemen- tioned larger system of care for affected adolescents and their families. It also means that all adults (a) realize the impact of trauma and pathways to healing; (b) recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in students, staff, and families; (c) respond to trauma by incorporating that knowledge into practices, procedures, and policies, and (d) resist traumatization of students by eliminating practices that can trigger students exposed to trauma. (SAMHSA, 2014).
Researchers and practitioners in fields such as psy- chology and social work increasingly recognize the signif- icant need for schools, in general, to be sites for delivery of trauma-informed practices (Chafouleas et al., 2016). Because the inherent changes occurring in the physical, emotional, social, and mental lives of adolescents can sometimes mimic signs and symptoms of mental health challenges, it is especially critical that adults in middle schools are aware of the signs and symptoms in their students. Additionally, the more trauma students experi- ence, the more at risk they are for engaging in dangerous behavior, decreased academic performance, and increased school absences (Perfect, Turley, Carlson, Yohanna, & Saint Gilles, 2016). These results necessitate connecting middle school students with the SC and others who can support them, as well as ensuring all school-wide practices are trauma-informed (Cole, Eisner, Gregory, &
Ristuccia, 2013). Given the evidence that trauma-informed practices can help educators get in front of these risks, they are then able to engage students in unique ways that offer support, understanding, and draw from students’ strengths. In spite of the complexities inherent in working across these elements, middle school environments include several organizational structures within which to provide trauma-informed interventions for those who need them. The middle school, with its routines, consis- tent presence in adolescents’ lives, and intentionality around relationship building, can play a unique role within the larger system of care.
Schools have many options when it comes to who can deliver mental health services; among these are school social workers, school psychologists, drug and alcohol counselors, and outside mental health consultants. However, typically these professionals are not housed within school buildings and are not part of the day-to-day operations of middle schools. Given the extent and nature of trauma exposure, we believe it is critical that the pri- mary individual supporting trauma-informed practices is physically present in the school daily, integrated within school routines, and has ongoing relationships with stu- dents, teachers, and staff. Importantly, given these criteria, we assert that the SC is well-positioned to enact the American Institutes for Research’s (2016) guiding princi- ples for school-wide implementation of trauma-informed programs in five key domains: (a) supporting staff devel- opment; (b) creating a safe and supportive environment; (c) assessing needs and planning services; (d) involving consumers; and (e) adapting practices. Additionally, trauma-informed care should connect across the school, and the approach and understanding embraced by every adult to ensure a safe, inclusive environment with consis- tent policies and practices (National Child Traumatic Stress Network, Schools Committee, 2017). A whole school approach needs to include willing staff members at every grade level led by a visible, collaborative leader like a SC who can coordinate a range of efforts across the school.
In addition to their educational training, SCs are often very knowledgeable about students’ histories. While many topics discussed in a school counseling office can be confi- dential, it is not out of bounds for SCs to inform teachers and
28 Middle School Journal September 2019
other stakeholders in a student’s life about issues and con- cerns and request grace and support for the student. As a result, SCs become the conduit to teachers and stake- holders so they may be aware that extra support is needed.
Finally, SCs have the capacity to facilitate meetings that include school staff members, parents/guardians, community members who are a part of the student’s life and the student to better understand the student and their decisions. This group also offers support to the stu- dent. By bringing family members, staff members and the student to the table, an action plan can be created and implemented that includes weekly or bi-weekly check-ins along with accountability sheets or progress monitoring. These tools help the student become more accountable to the goals set in the meeting and serve as a way for SCs to quickly check in on the student’s well-being.
Establishing a trauma informed middle school requires consideration of many aspects of schooling. Critical foun- dational beliefs about children, schools, care, and learning can impact the success of implementation. We contend that supporting a strengths-based perspective and estab- lishing a receptive school climate are two critical founda- tional features of a trauma-informed school.
Supporting a strengths-based, “healing centered” perspective. A trauma-informed school ensures that teachers, administrators, and SCs work from a strengths perspective that promotes healing and dispels deficit views of young adolescents. Nearly 47% of children experience at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE) (Felitti et al., 1998). ACEs are potentially traumatic events that can have both immediate as well as long term impact on middle level students (Felitti et al., 1998), affecting their ability to cope. Further, these experiences may occur to the family and community as well as the child, including circumstances such as maltreatment, stress within the family, violence in the community and natural disasters (van der Kolk, 2005). While 47% is the national average of children experiencing ACEs, the rates vary by state, region, and school. Given the high incidents of these experiences among the middle school population, as well as the increased risk for trauma exposure in adolescence (Ruzek et al., 2007), we encourage a strengths-based approach that recognizes middle level students’ assets and resilience (Zacarian, Alvarez-Ortiz, & Haynes, 2017). To that end, every school-based professional in contact with
students should resist subscribing to deficit perspectives and limited views of middle schoolers. Deficit perspectives have profound consequences for students and adults. This line of thinking may shape attitudes and behaviors among school staff, who may contend that there is nothing they can do to support students. They may fail to recognize the strengths and resilience of students who experience trauma. Thus, we advocate a strengths-based approach and a “healing centered” (Ginwright, 2018) stance that can be led by a SC in order to create a “shift” in how middle school educators approach students and their circumstances, viewing them holistically and focusing on their well-being.
Establishing a receptive climate. A trauma-informed school supports students by working to address structures and/or policies that might cause trauma or create circumstances that retraumatize students (Oehlberg, 2008). Instead of responding to behavior caused by overly restrictive or non-responsive practices, a proactive stance creates a climate and culture where students who have experienced trauma receive the support they need to be successful in school. For example, Lisa Terrance, an experienced SC who works at Metro Middle School in a large mid-western city, describes the importance of trauma-informed care at the middle school level and the significance of proactive practices by teachers:
Having teachers form relationships with students makes it easier to spot when a kid struggles with previous trauma, so we can get them the support they need. Teachers and instructional aides are our front lines. They are the first to spot any issues, and when informed, can get the supports needed for their stu- dents. I work with kids all the time that cope with so much trauma, grown adults would struggle to main- tain composure.
Ms. Terrance’s story illustrates of the importance SCs facilitation of and reinforcement of strong relationship- building between teachers and students, as well as the critical need for trauma-informed practices in middle schools. When teachers and SCs have sound relationships with their students and are aware of the effects of trauma, they can proactively create a climate that will help students reach their potential.
professionals and the mental health experts in their respective schools must be a strong consideration for dis- tricts across the state and country. Furthermore, SCs across districts and states must share one voice in accept- ing this as their role. Because the role has often been undefined and quite frankly, unclear, for so many educa- tors (including SCs), there is a wide array of what SCs are expected to do. This role differs throughout any given state and can even differ among schools that are only a few miles away from one another. By sharing one voice and accepting the role of SC as the mental health experts in our schools, we will see transformative change in educa- tion while serving our youth in need by leading trauma- informed and trauma-sensitive schools.
To align the role of SCs, the authors of this manu- script recommend that districts and schools adopt the American School Counseling Association National Model (ASCA, 2012) or that they follow identified state SC stan- dards of practice. The ASCA model submits that each SC should have a SC to student relationship of 250:1 and spend a majority of their time in direct services to students with only a small fraction of their time in indirect services. (e.g. testing, administrative work, discipling students, etc.). For many SCs in our mid-western state and across the nation, their practice is reversed. Thus, SCs often spend most of their time in indirect services. The ASCA National Model also advises SCs to become members of the educational team who use leadership, advocacy, and collaboration skills to promote system change as appro- priate. To facilitate this systemic change, schools should consider implementation of the four components of the ASCA National Model (2012) for SCs, (a) foundation; (b) management; (c) delivery; and (d) accountability. By intentionally naming trauma informed teaching within a comprehensive school counseling program (ASCA, 2019) schools can move toward creating supportive struc- tures for all students and stakeholders within their schools.
Addressing the foundation aspect of the ASCA National Model suggests that SCs need to identify program needs (i.e. trauma-informed practices), enhance the learning process for all students through focusing on academics, career and personal/social development and ultimately understand the professional competencies of the profes- sion to guide their decision-making. By having a strong foundation for their work, SCs have an opportunity to
place a high priority on trauma-informed practices by creating strong School Counseling Core Curriculum (ASCA, 2014) lessons (formerly known as guidance les- sons) for all students. These lessons help students to learn and understand skills that may help them begin to work through some of their own trauma and help SCs to better structure their time to meet the needs of their students. For example, a focus on social and emotional health has been a long-held, developmentally appropriate practice in middle level schools (Jackson & Davis, 2000; National Middle School Association, 2010). Social emotional health is a cornerstone of trauma-informed teaching which has the potential to improve students’ overall health (Taylor, Oberle, Durlak, & Weissberg, 2017). When school and classroom structures and routines allow for student dis- covery, collaboration, meaningful discussion, guided reflective practices, choice, and flexible learning oppor- tunities, it creates a climate where young adolescents feel respected, valued, and engaged. Further, in spaces where students have choice and decision-making opportunities, it is easier to engage them in metacognitive work that will lead to social and emotional growth.
SCs can develop competencies and self-assessment tools through the management component that will help them assess and measure where they are in developing a trauma- informed and trauma-sensitive school. This component also allows SCs to assess their use of time to evaluate or reevaluate their direct or indirect services to students. Through the management of the school counseling pro- gram, SCs will also develop curriculum for small and large group core curriculum school counseling lessons that may teach students proactive ways to cope with a variety of emotions.
One example would be implementing and supporting mindfulness throughout the school as a core component of being trauma-informed (Sibinga, Webb, Ghazarian, & Ellen, 2016). The inherently transitory aspects of young adolescence coupledwith the development ofmetacognitionmakemiddle school a perfect place to implement the practice of mindful- ness to teach regulation of both thoughts and emotions, as well as the variety of other benefits the practice has to offer. In offering the students the tools it takes to focus on a singular task, even if such a task is as ordinary as breathing, the practice lays a foundation for being able to focus on educational con- tent and trains themind to deepen andmaintain higher order
30 Middle School Journal September 2019
thought (Chiesa & Serretti, 2009). These practices aid in prefrontal cortex development as well as metacognitive development (Blakemore et al., 2010; Brown & Knowles, 2014). It teaches focus as well as fosters patience and practice, promoting positive relationships, building community, and establishing a culture devoted to becoming oneself. Research has demonstrated that mindfulness practices improve well- being, decrease stress, anxiety and PTSD symptoms in both youth and adults (Sibinga et al., 2016).
The SC will be able to identify and deliver services to students, staff members, parents, and the community through the delivery component of school counseling. They will also work to connect students with outside ser- vices that may help based on the students’ personal and social needs. Additionally, it allows for SCs to develop opportunities for learning throughout the building. It is critical for teachers and school staff to have the opportu- nity to learn about the impact and symptoms of trauma, and about the appropriate enactment of trauma-informed practices. SCs are prepared to disseminate this informa- tion and coach teachers in how to do this. Schools can allow SCs this time while positioning them as experts on trauma-informed practices at the building level, poten- tially increasing teacher efficacy and buy-in.
SCs use various school data to assess their school’s trauma- informed practices and sensitivity to trauma through the accountability component of the ASCA model. This will help all stakeholders to better understand where the school is in relation to the enactment of trauma-informed practices and where they need to go to further their focus on trauma. Data-based decisions are essential to develop- ing school-wide policies and practices that support trauma- informed practices (Chafouleas et al., 2016). In fact, to analyze all data available is in essence a trauma-informed practice. In reality, schools already collect a variety of data and universal indicators that they can use in multiple ways to support and enact trauma-informed practices. The key is to utilize the best data to build a climate and culture that will support the overall health and well-being of young adolescents. While data related to academic per- formance is essential, three types of data are critical to policies and practices that are responsive to trauma (a) attendance and course passing data; (b) behavior and
discipline data; (c) perception of experiences and quali- tative data.
Attendance data and course passing. It is important for SCs and other school leaders to monitor attendance data on a regular basis to ensure students are in school and to be alert to any changes in attendance patterns. Changes in attendance can reveal patterns of a child’s home life and structures outside of school. Chronic absenteeism could be one indicator of trauma in a student’s life. Closely related to attendance are changes in academic performance. By monitoring course passing and academic progress, SCs get yet another view of the student in order to ask questions that will lead to better understanding their individual needs. These questions have the potential to help SCs support school-wide efforts to become trauma-informed (NCTSN, 2008).
Behavior and discipline data. Data related to a student behavior provide insights into students’ experiences in classrooms but also reveals patterns in school-wide discipline procedures and policies that may be exacerbating problems and re-traumatizing students. Patterns of behavioral infractions often suggest that something deeper is going on in a student’s life. Such data may also suggest challenges teachers are facing in regulating their own emotional responses to misbehavior, as well as implicit bias that yields greater punishment of students of color (Okonofua & Eberhardt, 2015). By monitoring these data, SCs can see these infractions and begin to ask the students (along with a potential team of stakeholders) questions that dig deeper into their histories. While misbehavior is not always an indicator of trauma, SCs may find that trauma does have a part to play in the choices and behaviors that both students’ and teachers exhibit. Further, SCs can use existing tools to help identify those behaviors. Research demonstrates how traumatic experiences in childhood lead to risk behaviors as youth develop, as well as impact their self-regulation (Wolpow et al., 2016). Access to data on students’ self- report risk behaviors (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018) and perception of harm can offer critical information to SC’s and other staff about the specific risk behaviors to target for prevention. With that information, the SC can coordinate efforts from a trauma- informed lens to address some root causes of behavior, support students in self-regulation, and raise awareness towards improvement of discipline policies and procedures that may be re-traumatizing students and exacerbate disproportionate school exclusion.
Perception of experiences and qualitative data. Student perceptions are essential in understanding current experiences and needs including social, emotional, academic, and basic needs. Additionally, qualitative data collected by one-on-one conferences or observation of student interactions is essential to helping teachers and counselors gain insights into students’ lived experiences and the trauma they might be experiencing. While more time-intensive, qualitative data provide context to quantitative data collected by the school. For example, a school counselor from our state implements what she calls meeting minutes. Similar to advisory practices, this counselor moves throughout the school and meets with individual students for one-minute, quick conferences. She collects this qualitative data to help her better understand the needs of students but also to help become informed about individual student needs and concerns. Collecting this type of data can also provide a school-wide picture of some elements of culture and climate such as a sense of belonging, safety, and happiness. With a large caseload, one minute per student helps this SC learn who needs follow-up and who she should absolutely ensure is on her radar.
Secondary traumatic stress
In secondary traumatic stress, also considered vicarious trauma, an individual’s symptoms may be similar to those of someonewithPTSD(Figley, 1999). Secondary traumatic stress affects one’s capacity to feel empathetic or capable and can significantly impact mental, psychological, and physical well- being. Hill (2011) found in a qualitative study of urban tea- chers that self-care methods such as debriefing with colleagues, reading trauma related information, and visiting a therapist helped teachers cope with compassion fatigue. It is
critical that middle schools raise awareness of the specific risk factors for secondary traumatic stress and support adult well- being and self-care. For SCs, this means practicing routine awareness of your ownwell-being and taking specific actions to maintain life balance as well as helping teachers understand the importance of self-care. It also means utilizing tools developed to help identify secondary trauma as well as offer suggestions formanaging it. One of themany tools available is the Professional Quality of Life Professional Quality of Lifetest (proQUOL) (Stamm, 2009) that allows individuals to assess where they are on compassion satisfaction, compassion fati- gue, and the two sub constructs of compassion fatigue which are burnout and secondary traumatic stress. This resource along with additional information and aids are available at https://proqol.org/ProQol_Test.html. There aremany other resources for schools to use to support their teachers (e.g. Olga Phoenix Self-care Wheel, 2013; The Trauma Responsive Educational Practice Project, n.d.) as they process their own traumatic stress.
Administrative team actively supporting teacher wellbeing
School administrators play a central role in supporting teacher wellbeing in the face of trauma. While adminis- trators cannot force teachers to engage in self-care on their own, research has shown that there are other factors that can help mitigate the impact of secondary traumatic stress including collegial support and mentoring (Ludick & Figley, 2017). Administrators must make secondary traumatic stress a priority and take a pulse on the status of their staff by assessing the levels of burnout and secondary stress. They can also support staff by ensuring there are dedicated spaces and times for adults in the building to formally and informally debrief and discuss stressful events specifically related to student’s trauma exposure as well as opportunities for inspirational celebrations of student success in the face of adversity. Administrators also can provide mentoring opportunities which are particularly important for new teachers since inexperience in the field is another risk factor for secondary traumatic stress.
32 Middle School Journal September 2019https://proqol.org/ProQol_Test.html
means that middle schools can no longer afford to be without trauma-informed information and practices.
The rates of trauma experienced by our students in middle schools, along with the risks associated with secondary traumatic stress for adults that work with them means that middle schools can no longer afford to be without trauma-informed information and practices.
Furthermore, these practices, delivered across the school by adults in different roles, need to be coordinated and comprehensive (Chafouleas et al., 2016). SCs are posi- tioned perfectly in schools to lead the charge on trauma- informed care. They play a key role in ushering imple- mentation of a trauma-informed school and ensuring its’ long-term success. When middle schools pay particular attention to the Culture and Community characteristics out- lined in This We Believe (2010) and include intentional advocacy for positioning SCs to lead within schools, trauma-informed practices can provide much needed academic and emotional supports for students.
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Penny B. Howell, Ed.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Middle and Secondary Education at the University of Louisville. Email: email@example.com
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Damien Sweeney, Ed.D., is the Program Coordinator for Comprehensive School Counseling at the Kentucky Department of Education. Email: email@example.com
Judi Vanderhaar, Ph.D.,works in the Division of Student Success for the Kentucky Department of Education. Email: Judi.firstname.lastname@example.org.
34 Middle School Journal September 2019http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2156759X1201600506 http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2156759X1201600506 http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1077559516635274 http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1077559516635274 http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/trm0000096 https://search-ebscohostcom.echo.louisville.edu/login.aspx?direct=true%26db=eric%26AN=EJ1044346%26site=ehost-live https://search-ebscohostcom.echo.louisville.edu/login.aspx?direct=true%26db=eric%26AN=EJ1044346%26site=ehost-live https://search-ebscohostcom.echo.louisville.edu/login.aspx?direct=true%26db=eric%26AN=EJ1044346%26site=ehost-live https://www.nctsn.org/resources/psychological-and-behavioral-impact-trauma-middle-school-students https://www.nctsn.org/resources/psychological-and-behavioral-impact-trauma-middle-school-students https://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/resources//creating_supporting_sustaining_trauma_informed_schools_a_systems_framework https://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/resources//creating_supporting_sustaining_trauma_informed_schools_a_systems_framework https://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/resources//creating_supporting_sustaining_trauma_informed_schools_a_systems_framework http://www.traumainformedcareproject.org/resources/WhySchoolsNeedToBeTraumaInformed(2) http://www.traumainformedcareproject.org/resources/WhySchoolsNeedToBeTraumaInformed(2) http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0956797615570365 http://www.olgaphoenix.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Self-Care-Wheel-template-English http://www.olgaphoenix.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Self-Care-Wheel-template-English http://www.olgaphoenix.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Self-Care-Wheel-template-English http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12310-016-9175-2 http://dx.doi.org/10.17744/mehc.29.1.5racqxjueafabgwp http://dx.doi.org/10.17744/mehc.29.1.5racqxjueafabgwp http://dx.doi.org/10.1542/peds.2015-2532 https://proqol.org/ProQol_Test.html https://proqol.org/ProQol_Test.html http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12864 https://www.trepeducator.org http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/0091732X18821123 http://dx.doi.org/10.3928/00485713-20050501-06 http://dx.doi.org/10.3928/00485713-20050501-06 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2013.06.007 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2013.06.007
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