Urban schools are situated in communities where traumatic stress is rampant, and often reflected in chaotic, even violent school climate. Our Resiliency Project promotes learning environments supportive of healthy child development and characterized by trauma-informed practices. ACTS has proposed a three-year effort to promote educational resiliency in school communities, including research, 2 pilot years, and a report development period. We will work with a circle of practice to engage each school community in a self-assessment, during which time they will study the sources of trauma and stress present in the everyday lives of the children and their supporting adults, as well as the impact of those stressors on capacities and behaviors. Together they will study resilience and what it takes to foster it in individuals, and begin to construct a community and culture around resiliency. Agreements will result in a set of common daily practices, or ways of relating to one another and organizing activity, and a set of enrichment and problem-solving programs, that will address specific areas of resilience development (arts, mental health, mediation and conflict resolution, civic engagement, etc.).
Safe Space/Restoration Room (SSRR)
As part of ACTS Resiliency Project – a concerted, comprehensive focus on child well-being and healthy development – staff and parents are guided to develop a Safe Space/Restoration Room. The SSRR (named by each school community) is a center of learning for the school community – a place for children and adults who are exhibiting or expressing a need for support through behavior, communication, or choice, often rooted in trauma and stress. The SSRR reflects a demand for alternatives to harsh punishment (e.g. calling police to remove young children from a classroom, threats and withholding of needed reinforcements, suspensions, and expulsions) that have long-term detrimental consequences and that occur all too often, even in the early years of urban schooling. In order for alternative discipline to be effective, teachers need not only situational relief, but also skill development in trauma-sensitive activities and practices that allow children to thrive in the classroom.
The SSRR Model is under development at a school in West Baltimore. The School Climate Team has created and named a model SSRR called The HUB (Help Us Be…) that will open for students, teachers and families in January 2015.
The SSRR has various activity centers and is staffed with compassionate, caring school staff and volunteers with specific training. Lessons learned in the SSRR are shared with the teacher (to prevent future need), parents (to provide home-based support), and with the community as a whole (to inform culture change). Development of the RR is a collaborative process: one that builds the knowledge and skills of teachers and parents, even as it teaches children self-regulation and relational skills. The community will make a plan for how the SSRR will be constituted, utilized, and staffed, how those individuals will be trained, and how on-going interaction and communication will occur with individual teachers and families, and with the school community as a whole. This planning process fosters school-wide climate change.
With interest and ideas, contact Jessica Strauss: JStrauss@ACTS-Alliance.org.