BRISTOL TOWNSHIP >> During Bristol Township School District’s professional development days on Sept. 4-6, teachers of kindergarten through eighth grade participated in responsive classroom training, and teachers of sixth through 12th grade participated in trauma-informed training.

Although teachers trained in these areas before, this was the first time the entire district received full training. The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency awarded the district with a grant of $169,000, which made the training possible. Teachers engaged in interactive workshops to learn strategies that foster students’ emotional and social development.

“The training provided the district with a common language and strategy to support students in a consistent way,” said State and Federal Programs Coordinator Audrey Flojo Colletti. “Educators came together as a community to create a safe, productive learning environment for students in their new school year.”

Responsive Classroom Instruction

Responsive classroom is an evidence-based approach to teaching and discipline that provides elementary and middle school educators the tools they need to create a safe, positive and engaging school community. In a responsive classroom, students develop strong social and academic skills.

The training was conducted by the Center for Responsive Classrooms, Inc., and they taught teachers the four key components of the responsive classroom.

· Engaging academics – Lessons that are participatory, challenging and fun to encourage curiosity and appeal to students.

· Positive community – A secure and predictable environment that gives a sense of inclusion to students.

· Effective management - A calm and organized classroom that promotes responsibility and high learning engagement.

· Developmentally responsive teaching – All decisions for teaching and discipline are based on research and awareness of students’ social, emotional, physical and cognitive development.

To achieve the four components, teachers received training on working with students during morning meetings, interactive modeling, logical consequences, quiet time, energizers and other tactics.

Additionally, teachers learned that the more they understand about developmental patterns of students, the more they can work with those developments rather than against them. For example, it is harder for young children to sit still and pay attention for long periods of time. Knowing that information, teachers practiced energizers – short, playful whole group activities – to refocus attention of their students.

Trauma-Informed Instruction

During trauma-informed training, middle and high school teachers completed various workshops conducted by Cindy Kruse Consulting to learn about the types of trauma children can experience outside of school, and the best language and strategies to effectively respond.

Trauma is a response to a distressing experience that overwhelms the child’s ability to cope. Children often deal with family trauma and bring that with them to school, making it difficult for students to learn.

For one of the workshops, teachers went on a carousel walk in small groups where they brainstormed types of trauma children experience such as divorced parents, loss of a loved one, neglect, bullying, car accidents and poor financial situations. Whether the event is traumatic or not depends on the child’s experience of the event and may have long or short term effects.

Teachers also considered behaviors students might exhibit as a response to trauma like anger, developing an eating disorder, self-harm, lying and anxiety. Then they discussed ways to help students: listening to them, providing a safe space, giving them choices and ultimately, building positive relationships. Teachers may not always be aware if a child experienced trauma in the past but building a sense of community in the classroom benefits all students.

By utilizing trauma-informed strategies, teachers help children feel safe and connected in the classroom, and ultimately achieve their full potential socially, emotionally and academically.

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