Sunday, May 10, 2020

Peer mediators and educators can implement trauma informed approaches

This is the third article in the Trauma Informed series written by Darby Munroe, Ph.D. student from Nova Southeastern University.

Trauma informed approaches to learning can be implemented on a school wide level.  The previous article mentioned trauma informed accommodations teachers could use in the classroom to prevent and reduce school conflict.  Here, more accommodations for teachers and students will be mentioned.
Trauma informed approaches to regular school and classroom activities
The graphic below depicts additional accommodations schools can use to help prevent and reduce conflict.  This particular graphic show coping strategies for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  Many think that PTSD is something that only military veterans can get, but other people, including students, can also experience it and its symptoms.  Many of the symptoms of PTSD are related to the reactions of fight, flight and freeze (discussed in previous article). 
Spending time with people is an important way to foster connection and relationship.  Humans are wired for connection and need community to thrive.  Mindfulness can help calm the body and focus the brain.  Apps like Calm and Headspace both have free accounts for teachers to use.  Exercise and movement can help regulate and calm the body.  Walking, yoga, stretching, dancing can all be done in class.  PE, recess, bodyweight exercises and interval training can be done in short amounts of time and still provide feel good hormones to the body and brain.  Journaling is a wonderful way for students to get their distracting thoughts out of their heads before activities where they need to concentrate.  Teachers can have specific notebooks for journaling, that are kept in a locked filing cabinet, to protect student privacy.  Many schools and school districts are starting to providing a mental health counselor on each campus for students to see during the school day, usually during an elective.  This helps students get the mental health care they need, especially if they don’t have transportation to an office off campus.  Lifestyle changes can also help regulate the nervous system.  Going back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, making sure basic needs are met can provide students with overall healthier life experiences.  Better sleep, which may include less homework, good nutritious food, feeling safe and welcome, and being a part of a community are good lifestyle goals that can be create within classrooms.
Peer mediators are students who are trained to help facilitate conflicts at school, under the supervision of school faculty.  Some schools have dedicated peer mediation programs, as course electives or after school activities and clubs.  Other schools may view peer mediation and restorative circles as a response to disciplinary issues, instead of preventative practices.  The teachers and students who facilitate peer mediations can also implement some of the trauma informed accommodations that have been mentioned.  Another accommodation that could be used by peer mediators is online peer mediation.  If there are students who have been in a conflict together, it might be uncomfortable, and even triggering or traumatic, for them to be in the same room together for a mediation (or circle).  By doing the peer mediation online, students would not have to be in the same room, eliminating potential triggers.  This would help the students to feel safer, and allow them to access their pre-frontal cortex, so they can participate fully, instead of being stuck in fear mode, or in fight, flight or freeze mode.
How to connect and network with other peer mediators and peace educators
This list of accommodations on how to make schools and peer mediation trauma informed is not all encompassing.  An excellent way to learn more is for teachers to network with other professionals who are already practicing trauma informed approaches and peer mediation, and learn from them and alongside them.  For in person networking, teachers can see if their school has already implemented and supports these programs.  They can look for these programs and trainings in their own school districts.  They can attend conferences and trainings on trauma informed education, peer mediation, and restorative justice. 
There are even more opportunities to network with like-minded professionals online!  Teachers might already be on popular social networking platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.  They should be careful to keep their personal accounts private and establish a professional account for their professional activity.  Facebook has many groups teachers can join on trauma informed education and restorative justice in education.  Instagram has great graphics and pictures for people to follow.  Twitter utilizes hashtags for teachers to find topics and people to follow.  It is one of the easiest platforms for professional to connect on, and peers are quick to respond to questions.  Sometimes there are twitter chats discussing a specific topic or a book.  LinkedIn is much more professional, but functions similarly to Facebook.  All utilize hashtags, and if active on all of them, cross posting will be noticeable.  It is not necessary to network on all of these platforms. Pick one and be intentional about building a network around trauma informed education, peer mediation, and restorative justice in education.

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