The year is 2021—March 2021 to be exact. As I grab my backpack and mask, I head out to an empty school with a few teachers and school administration. I reside in my office, open up my laptop and hope I didn’t leave my headphones in the car. “I never would have imagined I would still be here continuing to engage teachers and students through Zoom,” I thought to myself.
This has definitely been one of the biggest hurdles that any school system has encountered. Teachers all over America are feeling the impact of this pandemic. I feel like it was just yesterday when I was sending videos to students and staff saying “we’ll be back to face to face in April 2020.” Now, almost a year later, we are still longing for that connection, that social piece that’s been taken out of our life’s puzzle.
Here I am, in the midst of all of it, focusing on maintaining intentional relationships with students and teachers at Barton Elementary. Whether it is doing stretches with the students and teachers, telling riddles or games of Would You Rather, I make sure each and every interaction has been routinely intentional and regulating. Understanding the impact and impression that I have been providing to staff and students has been more valuable than I can fathom. Having that visual of seeing smiling faces and joy from the students and teachers has been food for my soul, providing me with a sense of normalcy. It generates strength and motivation within me to continue building those relationships.
After all that, FINALLY, reopening dates are on the horizon. Bringing students back to in-person learning is what the school has been missing, it’s what every school has been missing. Personally, I’m excited about the return, but thinking forward, as a Trauma-Informed Consultant, what are the next steps to working with our students/teachers to make school feel like a safe environment? These strategies have to be applicable to being rhythmic and regulatory along with creating relationships and building community in the classroom.
So, here are the next steps for Barton Elementary to becoming Trauma Informed:
Motivational Music Playlist
Because music is a universal language that people of all cultures can relate to, music has the ability to bring joy, comfort and excitement. Therefore, the plan going forward within Barton Elementary is to harness all of those feelings to make Barton Elementary feel like a safe haven; when arriving to campus on Mondays and when leaving to go home on Fridays. It’s fun, of course, but most importantly it’s regulating for the students and teachers. Through the intercom, Mondays will include more upbeat music, e.g., Pharrell William’s song “Happy,” and Fridays will include music with a calm tone e.g., Jack Johnson’s “Upside Down.”
We want to create a system on the floor using decals where students are able to do brief brain breaks, monitored by the teacher or administration. An example would be would be a student having the ability to do hopscotch in the hallway or attempting to stand in a Tree-pose for 30 seconds. Having different decals on the ground provides creative ways for students to have a brain break. See an example in the image below.
Changing the Narrative
We want to change the narrative of how teachers address not just students with trauma, but all students at Barton as a whole. Like a “Therapeutic Web,” everyone has to be on the same accord. A child should be surrounded by a group of caring adults, not just a parent or a teacher. Instead, it’s the principal, counselor, recreational aides, multiples teachers, lunch staff, etc., who check in with the child and build an intentional relationship.
In the end, if I am asked, if students could jump right back into the learning process, my answer would be yes. However, would that benefit their mental health and create a positive and safe environment? It’s not likely. Our students are returning to school with grief and loss, homelessness, absent parents, anxiety and depression. Therefore, the focus again should stem from practices/strategies on building concrete relationships with our students. I know the road to recovery from trauma is a long and winding one. There is no quick-fix plan designed when it comes to confronting trauma. It will take patience, endurance, hope and, most importantly, TEAMWORK to nurture our students back to a mentally healthy place.
Sponsorships for our It’s About T.I.M.E. Social Hour are now available! Want to support this trauma-informed program? Sign up to be a sponsor today! Details here: bit.ly/socialhour2021
Stevie McBride, LMFT, is the newest member of the It’s About T.I.M.E. team where he works to support teachers and staff and helps students thrive academically. Before joining It’s About T.I.M.E., Stevie was part of our outpatient program where he helped guide children and families struggling with mental health conditions or abuse toward positive and productive futures. He is especially passionate about collaborating with families and discovering key strategies to help them build healthy relationships with each other. Before joining The Guidance Center team in 2013, McBride worked with the Braille Institute, creating programs and providing resources for blind and visually impaired teenagers and families, as a Youth/Career Service Consultant. McBride earned a Master’s Degree in Marriage, Family and Child Therapy at University of Phoenix.