What comes to mind when you think about New Year’s Eve??? 

Is it something like fresh-start, clean-slate, new beginnings, or resolutions? 

Every December 31 we gather together with family and friends to reflect upon the past 12 months and celebrate the new year we have in front of us. We are filled with hope and optimism that the coming year will be better than the last. In order to solidify our plans for a new and improved year we make resolutions or promises that are intended to guide us towards the path of success. This ritual runs parallel with “back to school” for those of us in education. We return to campus in August with a renewed sense of purpose. We have had the chance to rest, reflect, and rejuvenate.  We come together during our staff inservice and share ideas and thoughts on how to make this school year better than the last. We formulate our game plan and also make resolutions or promises that are intended to lead us to a more successful school year.

In honor of that New Year’s tradition I would like to share my resolution for the upcoming school year.  I won’t lie, it’s been difficult trying to narrow down all of the ideas I want to implement. I really wanted to come up with a resolution that encompassed all the “hot spots” that my campus faces consistently, such as low attendance rate, increased discipline referrals, and poor relationships (student to student and student to teacher).  After lots of research and contemplation my “New School Year” resolution is to transition my campus to a trauma-informed school. Take a look at this short video clip to see, in a nutshell why being trauma-informed can support my resolution. 

The foundation of my blogs this year will be based on the principles of being a trauma-informed campus and how that can influence your counseling program in regards to addressing the needs of your school. First order of business will be to rally the “troops” during staff development.  To truly honor this systemic approach it is crucial to educate and inspire the faculty. Here are three concepts to share with your staff:

1. What are ACEs and how do they affect our students?

Here is a free activity to use to introduce ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences).  The reasoning behind being trauma-informed is that every student’s story directly impacts their behavior, physical and mental health, in addition to their social-emotional well-being.  It’s essential to attempt to understand what is Under the Surface. Take a look at www.acestoohigh.com for more information related to ACEs.

2.Resilience is the key to overcoming your ACEs:

In the book Building Resilient Students from the Inside Out,  JPohl, CEO of TEEN TRUTH says “ Adversity is not the problem. It is an opportunity to build resiliency”. He goes on to state “ that the single greatest factor in a student’s school experience is whether ornot they have a connection with one charismatic adult”. Here is apowerful video that illustrates the importance of making connections in our pursuit of building resilient students.

3. Let’s look at the facts and how it relates to the classroom.

When children are overloaded with stress hormones caused by childhood trauma they may go into fight, flight, or freeze mode. They have difficulty learning, as well as trusting adults and building healthy relationships with peers. This video provides a simple, relevant explanation of trauma brain -vs-learning brain. Sharing the facts to your staff can allow them to internalize the need for becoming trauma-informed.

As a counselor, supporting my staff, students, and parents with a trauma-informed mindset just makes perfect sense to me.  I feel strongly that this approach will allow for a more proactive rather than reactive path towards meeting the physical, mental, and social-emotional needs of those I serve.  Best wishes to my counseling community as you return to your campuses and pour your passion for students into all that you do. Happy New Year!!!

Penny Knight
School Counselor, TEEN TRUTH

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