“Children today are carrying with them far more than the contents of their backpacks.”
– Dr. Sal Terrasi, Director of the Lesley Institute for Trauma Sensitivity (LIFTS)
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
What have you accomplished through your Oak-funded programme that you’re most proud to share with your colleagues?
We are honored to have fostered the development of schools and whole districts that are becoming increasingly trauma-sensitive. Not only does this change the lives of children, but educators themselves report feeling energized and empowered by this knowledge and the concrete tools they have developed.
What’s the most interesting challenge your Oak-funded programme currently faces?
We have noticed that it is not only individual children who are in a state of trauma, but schools, districts, and the broader community are in a state of hypervigilance and chronic stress. We recognize the need for all of us to stop, breathe, be mindful and connect with one another.
Lesley University’s Center for Special Education provides resources to schools, families, and policy-makers; conducts research; and disseminates information about instructional approaches and technologies. Its Institute for Trauma Sensitivity (LIFTS) helps teachers, staff, schools, and districts understand the prevalence of trauma and its effect on learning.
Fostering supportive schools for children who struggle to learn due to trauma
ABOUT THE ORGANISATION
The Lesley Institute for Trauma Sensitivity (LIFTS) seeks to help educators and school communities understand the neurobiology of trauma, how it can manifest in the classroom, and what can be done to create school environments that are safe, supportive, and conducive to learning for all children. Trauma—including experiences with abuse, neglect or living in disruptive home situations—can impact not only a child’s emotional health, but also cognitive processes such as executive functioning, self-regulation, memory, language expression and attention. These changes in emotional and cognitive functions can result in behavioural problems such as outbursts or student disengagement. Trauma-sensitive educators recognize the possible sources of such behaviour and instead of punishing, address its root cause. A trauma-sensitive classroom can result in improved academic performance, social/emotional awareness, relationship building and sense of well-being for all children, not just those affected by trauma.
ABOUT THE OAK FUNDED PROJECT
With Oak’s support, LIFTS is training student teachers, veteran teachers, and other school professionals to recognize and respond to signs of student trauma. LIFTS is offering graduate level coursework on the effects of student trauma to budding teachers and experienced school professionals. It is also developing a variety of course formats to accommodate the professional development needs of districts, including hybrid courses and weekend intensives. The recognition that many other people, in addition to teachers, interact with children in schools has led to consideration of education programs for paraprofessionals. Finally, beyond building capacity to train educators, LIFTS is developing an evaluation model to assess the effectiveness of trauma-sensitive classrooms and schools. Documenting efficacy at the level of the school, classroom, and individual student will better inform both theory and future practice.
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Oak Foundation commits its resources to address issues of global, social and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. With offices in Europe, Africa, India and North America, we make grants to organisations in approximately 40 countries worldwide.
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