Equity and Access Newsletter

Elementary Edition August 2018

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Is My Student Experiencing Trauma?

by Teena Mahoney

As the year begins, you may ask, “How do I know if a student is experiencing trauma?” While it’s important to identify students who need support, we can use trauma-informed practices with every single student because they benefit all.

Think of it like adding accommodations for disability (wheelchair ramp - wide doors) to a building. Not every single person needs it, but they significantly remove barriers for those who do. It also signifies to everyone that the building is an accessible place. We can do the same thing for our students impacted by trauma when we remove barriers and use trauma-informed strategies as a whole school.

Administrators, teachers, and counselors across the district are becoming trauma-sensitive. Josh Groves, principal at Pleasant View Elementary and Middle School, is among that group. He said their teachers at Pleasant View have recently experienced different student behaviors than in the past.

“We want to be in a place as adults that we understand those situations with our kids, and we can provide supports and interventions and things that are effective for them,” said Groves. Pleasant View has started a three-year trauma-informed and conscious discipline program to prepare staff to become trauma-sensitive.

“As a staff, we do a good job already helping most kids feel safe and cared for. It's important to equip teachers with the tools that will allow them to be successful with those kids who are sometimes a discipline struggle,” said Groves. “We need to create an environment that all of our kids feel safe and cared for and their families.”

Some tips from the National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children include:

  • Maintain usual routines.
  • Give children choices.
  • Set clear, firm limits for inappropriate behavior and develop logical—rather than punitive— consequences.
  • Recognize that behavioral problems may be transient and related to trauma. Be sensitive to the cues in the environment that may cause a reaction in the traumatized child.
  • Warn children if you will be doing something out of the ordinary, such as turning off the lights or making a sudden loud noise.

Book of The Month

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

Unhei (pronounced Yoon-Hey) is the name of the new Korean student at the school. It is hard enough being the new kid, but it is harder if you have a name no one can pronounce. Unhei is concerned about the American students liking her and thinks she should change her name. Instead of introducing herself she tells the class that she will choose a name by the end of the week.

Her classmates are fascinated by this new girl and decide to fill a jar with names for her to select. Meanwhile, Unhei practices being Amanda, Suzy or Laura. During this process, one of her classmates finds that Unhei’s name has a meaning and the jar mysteriously disappears. Her friend encourages her to chose her name. The Jar is a beautifully poignant story that all children can understand. It also highlights Unhei’s strength and courage which are very inspirational. Also, Yangsook Choi’s illustrations are colorful, soft, and illuminate the story.

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi can be found in Springfield Public School Libraries.

You Tube Link:


Did You Know?

Tips for a Welcoming Classroom

As we begin a new school year, let’s consider welcoming each student into a classroom family. A family that talks often and openly; where they feel safe in their learning environment and are willing to take a risk. A classroom family where each student feels heard and truly loved.

Truly, the most important thing your students will remember is how you made them feel, days and even years after the lessons are checked off. In an article for NEA Today, Jill Erfourth shares Three Tips for a Welcoming Classroom:

  • Use a Smile to Start the Day- Smile! It makes a difference in each student’s life if you greet them with a smile each morning. We might not know how their morning was at home or the night before. But we can set the tone in our classroom with a welcoming smile, handshake and I am happy to see you. They should know that when they come into your class the family is there to greet them and it is an environment they can learn and feel valued.

  • Praise Effort, Not Correct Answers- Instead of just correct answers, set a tone of praise for effort and thinking. Instill in students a growth mindset; effort creates ability, and their brain is a muscle that stretches and grows with hard work. Set a tone of praising effort and thinking, instead of just correct answers which give students the confidence they need to take risks.

  • Build Relationships Over Time- If your students know you genuinely care for them as a person, they will thrive. Getting to know your students is critical. Ask them to write about themselves, their families, their interests, and hobbies. Listen to them wholeheartedly. There will be times when this is difficult because teaching still has to take place. But, continue to give it your all and remember it is a marathon, not a sprint. Just stay present and in the moment.

“NEA Today Magazine.” NEA, www.nea.org/home/1814.htm.

What's In Your Tool Box?

Communicating with Parents by Teena Mahoney

The first days of school are quickly approaching. When you are getting ready to greet your new students, here are some tips to become a welcoming face for parents too. Studies have shown that family involvement is a strong predictor of high student achievement. Part of helping students achieve is strengthening the partnership between schools and families. As teachers, we play a front-line role in building these relationships get the years started.

A) Smile and learn their names. Dale Carnegie said, “the expression one wears on one's face is far more important than the clothes one wears on one’s back.” There may be only a few times in the year that parents will come to school. Remember to make your first impression positive and welcoming.

B) Conduct a Quick Survey at the beginning of the year or during your open house to assess the best way to communicate with students and families.

1. My child has regular access to a computer with internet access at home to support academics.


2. My child has regular access to a mobile device (like a tablet or phone) at home with internet access to support academics


3. I have access to email. (Yes/No)

If you answered no, please provide your name and your child’s name, and we will provide paper copies of communications.

4. I access the internet for school communications on my:

Home computer

Work computer

Mobile device

Other (please specify)

C) Make the early communications positive. It’s so much easier to make the first contacts to parents and guardians if you are calling with good news, rather than reporting negative behaviors. Take an hour and make quick calls home to every family on your roster. Start with a simple introduction. “Hi Mrs. Smith, this is Mrs. Williams. I’m so happy to have your Michael in my classroom this year.” Plan a second call to talk about the child’s positive behavior, improvements, or work quality.

D) Communicate frequently. Build a communication plan. Decide what fits for your classroom. Your communication could be a weekly newsletter, regular emails, occasional phone calls, or a note in the Friday folder.

Coming Events:

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