March 1, 2019
Last week I wrote about community or world relevance as it pertains to learning. I wrote that it can be considered authenticated or actualized learning. That community and world relevance are closely connected or appropriate to what is being done, considered or learned. I wrote how the connection is essential for building the scaffolds necessary for academic mastery. How scaffolds connect textbook learning to the world around us. I wrote that relevance in this context provides connections that are appropriate to the current time, period, or circumstances of the lesson at hand.
But how do we create rigorous and relevant lessons for our students that meet the needs of children today not those of 20 or 30 years ago? How do we adapt to them and what they bring to our classrooms? How do we create rigorous and relevant lessons for students that have experienced first-hand trauma? How do we create lessons for our students that are exposed to secondary trauma? How do we as educators create rigorous and relevant lessons and experiences when we are also exposed to secondary trauma? Well there is no simple answer! There is no simple solution! But this week district administration and R.E.A. leadership and members were able to sit together for two (2) days and discuss some of the challenges that we are facing as a district. To spend our days collaborating on ways we can improve outcomes for our schools through promoting “safer” environments through focusing our system on professional learning.
One of the main professional learning strands that we agreed to focus on is trauma informed practices. We all agreed that our students, families, communities and selves are either directly or indirectly involved with trauma. While not all of our children with traumatic histories are struggling, we know that adversity (trauma) is a strong predictor of the challenges in our schools. As a result, we have to develop our plan for addressing the role that trauma plays in our schools. Through our collaboration and collective agreement to focus much time, over the course of many years, on trauma informed schools and practices, we will work to develop a trauma sensitive district. One that is reflective and sensitive to all members of the learning community.
Together we will embark on our learning of how trauma affects a child’s ability to, focus, behave appropriately and learn. Together we will become more knowledgeable and familiar with trauma and its symptoms. The goal of our collaborative learning should be to create a district-wide trauma-sensitive climate. This work will not be easy. This work will require all educators work together to ensure students reach their potential. We will need to collaborate to change cultures that often result in the over use of discipline as an option, while working to ensure every student masters every standard.
We must learn and work collaboratively to eliminate bullying, teaching social and emotional skills and shut down the school-to-prison pipeline. There is no single program or set of services that exist to change our schools and support our children. Collaboratively we will create a district climate, based on safe and supportive schools, where all students can learn, behave appropriately and form relationships with adults and peers. Collaboratively, we will learn, then implement a trauma-sensitive approach to creating the exact culture and climate that our students, families and staff need. Our professional learning community will truly understand how to become safe and supportive schools and a district. This will require increasing our communication, collaboration and a willingness to try new ideas to support our most challenging students.
This is work that we can and will do as a result of the tremendous collaboration that occurred this week and was simply our starting point.
Thank you for your tremendous commitment to Every Student, Every Day!
Adam Taylor, Superintendent