Monroe Demonstration Academy Senior Advisor Amanda Jones aptly describes how teachers are expected to do what they are not trained to do.
Students who come to school with various traumas spend most of their time with teachers, not counsellors. Most schools do not have clinically trained mental health counselors on their full-time staff. Thus, teachers end up acting as advisors while delivering lessons.
It’s an unfair expectation.
A movement toward trauma-informed teaching gained momentum more than a decade ago to help teachers more effectively deal with students facing challenges outside the classroom. The idea is that it will defuse behavioral issues and expand the tools for teachers to reach students academically.
However, training in trauma-informed education has been patchy and inconsistent, generally left to teachers to seek out the information. Also, it is not as effective if it is not adopted school-wide and district-wide.
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Tulsa Public Schools is launching a program in Monroe to implement a trauma-informed educational approach. Teachers will benefit from coaching and professional development throughout the next school year to gradually make the shift.
“Not only do we meet students where they are, but where they want to be in the future to help them get there,” Jones said.
Monroe as a demonstration academy is a good place to start, but many schools could benefit from this type of method. TPS plans to eventually expand to other sites.
Oklahoma has one of the highest rates in the nation of people with a negative childhood experience score of at least two. The higher the ACE score, the more likely a person is to face challenges such as poor health, incarceration, and dysfunctional relationships.
These are not income-based experiences, although poverty is often linked to some of these outcomes. Nor is it limited to urban areas. Rural communities also struggle with issues such as broken families, mental health, substance abuse, incarceration and domestic violence.
Trauma can become a generational cycle. With the right interventions, this cycle can be stopped and replaced with perseverance, clearer decision-making, and a path to a healthier future.
Monroe’s program, called Oklahoma Tiered Intervention System of Support, or OTISS, was developed in 2011 and supported by a grant from the US Department of Education.
We appreciate Tulsa Public Schools for moving this program forward. Teachers want their students to succeed and are not given enough support. We hope this trauma-informed curriculum is a start to turn the tide and become a model for other schools.
The school cannot be responsible for fixing all the ills of society, but it can contribute to better results for students and teachers.