Equity and Access Newsletter

Elementary Edition July 2018

Big picture

Trauma-Informed is a Mindset by Teena Mahoney

When our students enter the classroom, they bring with them a short lifetime of experiences - some barely imaginable in our lives. The worries they have at home could force our students’ concern about their academic work to the bottom of their list of problems. Springfield Public Schools ensures that all of our buildings are responsive to the needs of students who have experienced trauma. Alison Roffers is the Coordinator of School Counseling for the district. She says that trauma-informed is more than just a set of practices.

“Trauma-informed is a mindset. It’s not a magic fix. It’s building the climate in the classroom and raising awareness for yourself,” Roffers said.

According to a study by the National Survey of Children’s Health, almost half of the children in the United States (approximately 35 million kids) have experienced “at least one or more types of serious childhood trauma.” It is crucial for educators to be aware of the symptoms of trauma and learning responses to maximize students’ academic and socio-emotional potential.

Trauma can be broken down into these eight categories, according to the work of Bonnie L. Green, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Georgetown University:

  • A threat to life or limb

  • Severe physical harm or injury including sexual assault

  • Receipt of intentional injury or harm

  • Exposure to the grotesque

  • Violent, sudden loss of a loved one

  • Witnessing or learning of violence to a loved one

  • Learning of exposure to a noxious agent

  • Causing death or severe harm to another

“Teachers need to take the mindset of not taking things personally and maybe not doing things the way they have always done them,” says Roffers. “Educators need to think about how they can make their classrooms feel more inclusive and how they can build relationships with students to have a more positive impact on everyone.”

These factors can help students feel psychological safety because they can manage stressors or connect with someone else who can help them manage stressors that make them feel unsafe. Implementing a trauma-informed approach in our schools means that teachers and administrators understand the impact of trauma and the potential paths to recovery. Teachers and administrators should be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in students. When adults in schools recognize these symptoms in their students, they make trauma-informed policies, procedures, and practices that actively resist re-traumatization.

To build trauma-informed practices in the classroom, Springfield Public Schools has resources available for educators. Roffers says that counselors across the district will receive the Ten Steps to Create an Informed School from the National Institute of Trauma and Loss in Children. Roffers hopes counselors will take on a leadership role in helping schools become trauma-informed.

“They will become educators to the other educators in the building as what trauma-informed means,” Roffers said. “So it doesn’t become one of those abstract things that we’re doing, to make it more tangible, but not overwhelming.”

You can view the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Trauma-Informed Schools Initiative and other useful resources through the SPS Counseling Services website (https://www.sps.org/Page/2546).

Book of the Month

Back Home by Gloria Jean Pinkney

Eight-year old Ernestine lives with her family up North, but Lumberton North Carolina is the place she was born, and her mama grew up. Ernestine is going on a train ride back to the family farm. She feels right at home as she travels through the lush, green countryside and thinks about the fun she will have spending time with her aunt, uncle, and cousins. Back Home is based on Gloria Pinkneys nostalgic, sweet, humorous, childhood memories of home and is perfect for intergenerational sharing.

Back Home can be found in Springfield Public Schools Libraries.

Big picture

Did You Know?

Building Inclusive Classrooms by Teena Mahoney

As you enjoy these lazy days of summer, maybe your mind will drift to planning to greet and make your classrooms welcome to all students. Take the time to consider marginalized students like those with disabilities, minority-racial differences, and first languages other than English when you plan the first days of school.

Physical Space

  • Accessible to all ( including those with disabilities)

  • Inviting to all. When decorating your walls, remember to include images that show diversity of ability, nationality, races, and cultures.

  • Avoid using gender to address and divide students for classroom activities

  • Offer a wide variety of options in your classroom library

  • Consider keeping some fidget toys available

Self Preparation

  • Know and practice how to say your students' names

  • Avoid both POSITIVE and NEGATIVE stereotypes

  • Learn the language.

  • Use gender-neutral language

  • Learn as much as you can about what students from different backgrounds might be experiencing at home.

  • Give space for preferred pronouns, but avoid requiring students to share.

  • Model and be more accepting of gender diversities so that students can develop the skills necessary to respond to a more hostile world and become resilience

Teaching Strategies to Involve Parents

Parents are a child’s first teacher so it vital that they are involved in their child’s continued education. The National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education feel that it is crucial. Research indicates, no matter what the income or background, students with involved parents are more likely to attend school regularly, have higher grades and test scores, have improved behavior, and adapt to school better. The data is overwhelming and shows the importance of teachers facilitating the involvement of parents in their child’s education. There are as many strategies to do this as there are parents who need alternatives to the standard parent-teacher conference and other school events.

Jacqui Murray in Teaching Strategies to Involve Parents shares a few suggestions that might work for you:

  • Open-Door Teaching Strategies – The National Association for the Education of Young Children states that parents will generally attend conferences when the teacher offers more than one scheduling option. Attempt to be available for parents that cannot participate in a meeting during traditional hours.
  • Create a Family-Friendly Environment – Welcome family participation in your classroom by inviting them to volunteer, share their expertise, or encourage them to eat breakfast or lunch with their child. Always provide guidelines, so the parents do not wonder why they are there or what to do.
  • Parent Classes - Offer classes on topics parents want to learn about or things their students are learning. You can do this by having a brown bag lunch program or while parents are waiting for their student to finish an after-school project. These programs can be offered online as well. It is essential to be aware of the different needs of your students’ parents.
  • Communicate with Parents – Most importantly be transparent in your communications. Always try to take questions, and concerns in the spirit they are intended. Let parents know that your goal is the same as theirs: the success of their child and any decision you make is with that goal in mind.

Communicate with parents by:

  • Offer a classroom newsletter.
  • Have a class Twitter feed.
  • Have a class blog that discusses big ideas, happenings, posts pictures.
  • Have an online resource center for parents.
  • Use email, but not overwhelmingly
  • Help in/out of the classroom - make it easy for a parent to access required materials outside of school. Help parents become familiar with existing websites that are available to use at home and with questions they may have about their student’s performance in your class.

“Teaching Strategies to Involve Parents.” TeachHUB,

Strategies to Involve Parents

Coming Events

Big picture
Big picture