Consistency And Predictability
Consistency from the educator = predictability for the student = feelings of safety at school.
Trauma Responsive Environments attend to the physical, psychological, and emotional safety of all.
Protection from violence and threats of violence from peers, staff, and any other members of the school community.
THREATS TO PHYSICAL SAFETY
Any physical aggression or threats of harm, sexual actions, and profane and hurtful words that lead to fights.
RESPOND AND RE-ESTABLISH
Teachers must respond to each occurrence with firm non-acceptance, model and teach appropriate ways of interpersonal communication and interaction. With sexual misconduct, students must know they will be believed and the actions will be investigated. In all cases, close with restorative practices.
Protection from derogatory statements that negatively affect one’s sense of self and belonging.
THREATS TO PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY
Behavioral expectations or corrections that communicate negative messages about the student’s personhood and sense of belonging within their school community
RESPOND AND RE-ESTABLISH
Establish and positively reinforce practices and behavioral expectations that honor student’s individuality, value their presence. Disciplinary interactions should include instruction that will help them to successfully navigate a similar situation, as students are reassured that they are valued and wanted members of the school community.
Feeling protected, supported, and enabled to take learning risks, make mistakes, and fail without feeling like a failure.
THREATS TO EMOTIONAL SAFETY
Students’ answers, ideas, work, or contributions being criticized, laughed at, or demeaned; leading them to fear making mistakes or, ultimately, any contribution. Any actions that lead to students believing that their input is not valued.
RESPOND AND RE-ESTABLISH
Establish and reinforce classroom expectations that honor the intellectual contributions of every student, and values mistakes as evidence of learning and as opportunities for innovation.
Students' Needs for Safety
For children and youth growing up in unstable and unsafe homes and/or communities, providing for their own safety can become the central issue that organizes almost all other aspects of their lives. For these students, the school day is filled with the following emotional challenges.
Continually assessing past or potentially active threats while in or on their way to school
Attention is consumed by thoughts of undesirable things that have happened or of what may be encountered after school
Watching out for which peers or teachers that may be a physical, psychological, or emotional threat
Easily enter a heightened state of arousal that makes it hard to return to the calm necessary for optimal functioning at school
Feeling on edge and easily agitated by seemingly mundane input
Emotionally disconnecting with people and circumstances as a way to cope with feelings or avoid potential triggers
These emotional states crowd out the mental and emotional calm that is necessary to navigate ABRUPT TRANSITIONS and
CHANGES IN THE EXPECTED ROUTINE. Hence, CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT PRACTICES must be well-planned and carried-out, with as few gaps and changes in routine, as possible, while students are continually kept abreast of what to expect. This creates safety for all students and especially for those whose sense of safety has been compromised.
Consistency & Predictability
The need for consistency and predictability for students impacted by trauma cannot be overstated. Consistency and predictability are imperatives to the experience of a safe environment. Consistent routines and expectations are particularly helpful for traumatized children who need a school environment which counters the lack of predictability and safety in their lives outside of school. Below are some detailed aspects of consistency and predictability with strategies for a school experience that is safe for all students to be able to learn, grow and thrive.
Consistent and predictable rituals, routines, and procedures help students:
prepare for each part of the day
know what to expect
aid in smooth transitions
provide reminders for upcoming events
Consistency helps create trust that the adults can provide safety. For students to experience consistency and predictability, rituals, routines, and procedures must be clearly planned and executed with consistency and predictability. Most educators get the first part correct, beginning the year with strong plans and clear rules, but then quickly become inconsistent and unpredictable in their implementation.
Investing in consistency and predictability will substantially reduce the likelihood that students will become dysregulated because they are anxious and uncertain about what comes next. Predictable schedules make it easier for students to internalize the progression and to shift from one task/activity to the next. For example, posted schedules inform students of what is coming up and what they’ve already done. It also serves as a visual aid to reference when students have questions about the day. Consistency and predictability also make for easier responses to unexpected changes in the day by allowing you to clearly state the aspect of the planned schedule being replaced with the change in the schedule for that day.
Consistency and predictability are created through:
daily or class-specific schedules and agendas posted in the same place in every classroom
clearly defined and posted behavior expectations
clearly defined sequence of actions for transitions
consistently used calls to attention and non-verbal signals for behavioral expectations
preparation warnings and countdowns to transitions
Trauma Responsive Classroom Management
There are two crucial aspects of Trauma Responsive classroom management:
Understanding the developmental consequences of trauma and how it shows up in their behavior.
Using this understanding to re-frame how we interpret students’ behaviors.
The graphic below from Child Trends' summarizes the multitiered effects of trauma on children. You can read more from Child Trends here >>> read more
Traumatized students’ hypervigilant focus and hyperarousal reduce their ability to:
retain information about behavioral expectations
give attention to internalizing the daily schedule, routines and procedures
retain and recall the academic material
To ensure that children’s brains and bodies promote learning, children need to trust that their schools and classrooms are safe spaces. This can actually reduce their hypervigilant focus on identifying threats and direct their attention to learning.
Well-planned classroom management procedures help students who are coping with trauma feel safe by meeting their need to:
receive multiple messages and frequent reassurances that they are safe in school
lower their pre-programmed hypervigilance used to detect threats
come down to a level of internal calm that enables their energy to be focused within the learning areas of their brain
Trauma responsive classroom management is the combination of actions taken to intentionally create an academically, socially, and emotionally supportive environment by intentionally organizing the space; decorating the space with signs posting rules, procedures, and schedules; well-planned regulating routines and daily activities; preventing and correcting behavior; and modulating the emotional transactions among students.
Expectations, Procedures, Rules, ...
Expectations, procedures, rules, rewards, and consequences weave a trauma responsive thread through students' school days.
An understanding of the effects of trauma on children and a commitment to supporting all students should be reflected in everything that takes place in the classroom. This includes the development of school and classroom behavioral expectations, procedures, rules, as well as systems of rewards and consequences.
Your three to five classroom rules should be developed in a way that lets students know, very precisely and concisely, what is expected of them. They should be related to experiencing success in the classroom and should be connected to a clear rationale for why each is important. Instead of rules based on what you don’t want students to do, the stated behavioral expectations should be focused on what you want students to do.
Review your written expectations for the following guiding practices and edit, as needed.
Positively stated in terms of the behaviors you want to see
“Stay silently focused on the assigned task during independent work time” is better than "no talking during independent work time.”
Stated in terms of clearly observable behavior
“Gather all needed materials at the start of class” is better than “be responsible.”
Stated in brief, child-friendly language
“Use kind words” is better than “be considerate of others.”
Procedures involve the behavioral actions and routines for how you want students to engage with you, with each other, and with space and materials in the classroom as they engage in the many tasks and activities that occur during the school day.
Praise and Rewards
Students will be motivated to adhere to expectations on an ongoing basis when you acknowledge and/or praise them regularly for exhibiting the expected behavior and even for their effort in trying to exhibit the expected behavior when they are not completely successful. It is important to praise effort! Acknowledging that a person is seen and that their efforts are valued can aid in combating some of the effects of trauma by fostering a sense of connectedness and belonging, supporting self-efficacy, confidence and the development of intrinsic motivation. Until all students are intrinsically motivated, you can encourage this growth through rewards.
Relational rewards are the most effective and sustainable rewards, and they strengthen the quality of the classroom climate.
Ideas for Relational Rewards:
Teacher joins students in a game during recess
Whole-class board game time
Teacher Book Read-In: teacher reads aloud from a favorite excitement-filled book
Lunch Bunch: whole class lunch party with music
Art and Music Afternoon: 20 minutes of free use of art supplies while music plays or they can create their own music
Pajama Day: students are allowed to wear appropriate pajamas to school
Good notes or calls home
Mentor Helper: individuals are selected (ex. most improved behavior) to help out in a lower grade level classroom
Individual lunch with the teacher
Individual special helper
Your rewards should be laid out in three different behavior management plans:
Whole-class behavior management plan, which should provide you and your students with how individuals and the whole class will be rewarded for following expected behaviors;
Table/group behavior management plan, which should contain the additional behavioral expectations for group work and instructions on how groups will be rewarded for following expected behaviors; and
Supportive behavior management plan, which should provide a plan for you and individual students who need additional support, in their attempts to display expected classroom behaviors.
Consequences should only be administered after using supportive teaching strategies, such as proximity, eye contact, re-direction, and stating the replacement behavior. Remember, the goal is to increase the student(s) ability to self-regulate in order to be able to exhibit expected classroom behaviors. The most helpful thing you can do when students don’t follow expectations and procedures is talk with them to understand why they have behaved in a particular way. If a person doesn’t understand why something has gone wrong, they will have little ability to correct it. So, this communication allows you to work on improving the student’s behavior while strengthening your relationship with the student.
Cautions and Considerations
Do not attempt to enforce a consequence while the student(s) is emotionally agitated/upset.
If you find that you are handing out many consequences to one student, to several students, or to the whole class, you need to return to teaching your rules and procedures.
A Different Experience
Students experiencing traumatic stressors need support in transitioning from being consumed by the problems outside of school to being cognitively present in the classroom, ready to learn. When schools can create the type of space in which students are able to experience some sense of control, see that their efforts produce results, and can plan for the future, there is an increase in children’s ability to cope with ongoing exposure to toxic stressors and trauma. Educators and schools must be intentional about establishing environments that are distinctly different from the stressful lives students may be experiencing outside of the school building and beyond the school day.
When The School
Is A Risk Factor
Limited capacity to avoid/prevent student confrontations
Inflexible behavioral routines and demands for conformity
Overcrowding that adds to feelings of emotional agitation and distress
Negative expectations for some students
Inconsistent and punitive discipline
Poor quality instruction
Disconnection from teachers, parents, and community
Left unsupported to experience academic failure
Rejection by peers and lack of belonging and commitment to school
Applying visible social consequences for school failure
When The School Reclaims
Awareness and prevention of student confrontations
Empowerment of student voice and agency
Adequate, well-maintained space that contributes to feeling relaxed and calm
High expectations and high support for all students
Positive, proactive, and restorative discipline
Engaging and rigorous instruction
Teachers, parents, and community members engaged
Varied opportunities to demonstrate and experience mastery
Acceptance by peers and sense of belonging and ownership
Private corrections to ensure maintenance of student dignity
Transitioning from one activity or from one space to another are times when students often need additional support meeting behavioral expectations. All and any transitions throughout the school day should be clear, predictable, and prioritize physical safety.
To create in-class and room-to-room transitions that are well-controlled, purposeful, and time-limited, students must be explicitly taught and given opportunities to practice detailed expectations about each transition routine before they can be expected to complete the transition on their own.
The following steps will ensure students are adequately supported before, during and after the transition:
Prompt students about the upcoming transition and behavioral expectations associated with it; help them to disengage from their current activity
Provide a signal to obtain student attention when the transition is about to begin, and don’t begin until you have the attention of all students
Provide pre-corrections for expectations for academic and social behavior
Specify the time limit for the transition and support them by providing time checks (e.g., reminders of remaining time for them to complete the transition)
Monitor for compliance and provide supportive non-shaming corrections
Signal the end of the transition by beginning the next activity
Provide performance feedback related to the success of the transition
Ask Yourself as You Plan:
What are my expectations during the transition?
How am I going to communicate my expectations?
Where might students struggle? How can I provide additional support?
How can I pre-correct and limit opportunities for off-task behavior?
Below is an example planned transition.
Ask a trusted colleague to observe one of your transitions and give them a copy of your plan. Have them time your transition and watch for the following:
How closely am I following my plan?
Are there areas when students need additional support?
Am I noticing and providing affirmations for following expectations?
Are there ways to shorten my transition without rushing students?
Shortening verbal prompts
Giving students tighter timeframes
First 5 Minutes of Class
3 to 17 minutes are wasted at the beginning of each class period, each school day. This totals to a substantial amount of missed instructional opportunities.
~Finding of Dr. Shirley Hord of Southwest Educational Development Laboratory in Texas
Instead of teacher direction or instructional design, too often student behavior is dictating the way class begins and proceeds. By developing and adhering to an engaging, consistent structure for how class starts, students will quickly become accustomed to the new procedures and expectations.
An Efficient and Engaging Transition Into Class
Greet the students at the door with an affirming statement and provide pre-corrections/ instructions
Before or as they are entering, tell students your specific behavioral expectations.
Engage students in a 2-minute activation of knowledge activity
Have an engaging, provocative task posted on the board and materials readily available. This may be a question that reviews important information on which students need to reflect or a thought prompt to introduce the lesson that will follow. Students can respond in their journals or on sticky notes to post on a chart. Activity may also be a fun game, crossword puzzle, or any activity that can be completed independently and silently, within 2 minutes.
Utilize an efficient system for attendance and homework collection, which frees you to:
Move through the class to check student well-being.
Continue to provide pre-correction/instructions and affirming statements about expected behaviors.
Check student progress on the activation of knowledge activity.
Students review agenda or opening assignment posted on the board
Teacher notes new or continuation of previous learning goal for the day, and/or project-based outcome for the day.
Teacher begins first item on agenda or students begin opening assignment.
Students who arrive tardy are greeted with a non-verbal gesture and instructed to quietly join the classroom instruction
Students can leave tardy pass on teacher desk to be checked at a later time when teacher is also able to personally check in with student.
To get these classroom expectations and procedures to become routine you will need to:
explain, model, and demonstrate the procedure/expectation
Rehearse and practice expectations and procedures under your supervision
Reteach, practice, and reinforce expectations and procedures until they become habitual.
Bluestein, J. (2001). Creating emotionally safe schools: a guide for educators and parents. Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Communications.]
Buck, G. H. (1999). Smoothing the rough edges of classroom transitions. Intervention in School and Clinic, 34(4), 224-235.
Collins, K. S. (2001). Children's perceptions of safety and exposure to violence. International Journal of Adolescence And Youth, 10(1-2), 31-49.
McIntosh, K., Herman, K., Sanford, A., McGraw, K., & Florence, K. (2004). Teaching transitions: Techniques for promoting success between lessons. Teaching Exceptional Children, 37(1), 32-38.