I love my job! “Job” doesn’t even feel like the appropriate word to use here. More accurately, I’d say that I have the privilege of experiencing a mutual caring connection between so many different people every day that I come to work.

Beach High School

After two years of It’s About T.I.M.E. (Trauma Informed Movement in Education) at Beach High School, it seems foreign that our time has come to an end and that I won’t be returning this fall. I miss the students so much! At the end-of-the-year assembly, I said my goodbyes, choking back tears; “I don’t want to leave you guys…” “We love you, Nate”, echoed back to me from the crowd of supremely special adolescents; a group of kids most would readily throw away. But we had a mutual caring connection.

The Beach staff is like family, where true, lasting friendships were made. Being trauma-informed isn’t really about neuroscience or therapeutic techniques. A school is trauma informed when the staff realizes how trauma has affected the students and that the antidote is first and foremost, and always, compassion, empathy, and patience.  We accomplished tremendous things over those two years by valuing the healing power of healthy, patient, caring relationships.

It’s About T.I.M.E. supplemented existing practices and programs such as CCEJ’s Restorative Justice program, Safe and Civil practices, and Blast Mentors to produce some astounding data: 53 percent decrease in suspensions and 4 percent increase in attendance.

Poly Academy of Achievers and Leaders

Nathan and Lloyd Wilson, dean of students at PAAL, high five after a quick check-in conversation during school.

 

The Guidance Center’s It’s About T.I.M.E. program will begin its second year at Poly PAAL High School, with some encouraging data as well: 64 percent decrease in suspensions and 1 percent increase in overall attendance with chronic absenteeism in Special Education decreasing by 45 percent compared with the prior school year. I’m so excited to return and continue to build something very special at this school.

I’ve met for lunch with PAAL administrative staff several times this summer to discuss our plans for the year, and we’re excited. We’re family here too. We laugh and tease each other like brothers and sisters. We put our heads together and shed tears trying to figure out what we can do to help the sensational PAAL kids.

In my experience as a clinician, therapeutic healing can only occur when one “feels felt”. That’s the culture we’re building at PAAL; one of mutual, reciprocal compassion. My family continues to grow.

Jane Addams Elementary School

Nathan and Addams leadership gather for a group photo after It’s About T.I.M.E. training before the official start of the school year. (From left to right: Dr. Karen Freidhoff, Nathan Swaringen, LCSW, Katie Hickox, Melissa Espinoza, and Armando Duenas)

 

It’s About T.I.M.E. begins the first of two years at Addams Elementary this fall, and things are going to be special. The staff and I have corresponded throughout the summer, engaging in a book study for The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, by Dr. Bruce Perry, relating the trauma-informed content of the book to the classroom. Addams is really embracing a core component of The Child Trauma Academy’s Neurosequential Model in Education (NME); the “regulate->relate->reason” sequence of engagement.

What this means is that children who have endured trauma or overwhelming stress must first be regulated with intentional, rhythmic somatosensory stimulation and a sense of safety. Then, we can attempt to connect, understand, and relate to them. Finally, now we can attempt to reason with them. That’s just how the brain works. Take a moment to ask yourself how many times you’ve tried in vain to reason with an upset child (or spouse, maybe). I’ll bet it escalated the situation didn’t it? I’ve met with the Addams administrative staff several times during the summer to brainstorm, plan, and offer what we all bring to the table, filtered through laughter and sarcastic wit.

Admittedly, adopting a trauma-informed lens can go against the grain of conventional wisdom and traditional teaching and discipline methods, but the “Addams Family” (what we endearingly refer to ourselves as) is captivated, motivated, and passionate in ways that excite me…

 

Stay tuned for an update on our second new partner school next week!

 

Nathan Swaringen, LCSW, has worked as a Clinical Therapist at The Guidance Center for more than 10 years. In this role, Swaringen helped guide children and families toward positive and productive futures through mental health treatment. In 2016, Swaringen developed and launched our trauma-informed pilot program based on ChildTrauma Academy’s Neurosequential Model in Education, called It’s About T.I.M.E. He is passionate about working with school staff to create nurturing environments where all students can thrive. Swaringen earned a Master of Social Work from University of Southern California, and Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from California State University, Fullerton.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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