Over the past decade, schools across the country have seen a significant increase in the need for trauma training in the classroom. And with recent cuts in Medicaid and mental health programs, the trend for more mental health support within the schools continues to grow. Disruptions, whether small or large, have escalated to a point where schools are now required to adopt measures that address and mitigate the risks within the classroom that are rooted in the trauma students experience at home and away from school. Clarke Community Schools, while not isolated in this trend, recently took the initiative to participate in a program designed to help students and instructors called Trauma Informed Instruction.

Before the Winter break, the staff and administrators at Clarke Community Schools started this commitment by watching an introductory video called “Resilience.” Resilience exposes and documents the trend in a number of issues today’s students face – including struggles with social stresses, poverty, single-parent homes, homelessness, abuse and more – and discussed the impact these issues have on students and subsequently their abilities to learn and assimilate to a classroom environment. The program, intended as a prerequisite for the Trauma Informed Instruction curriculum, set the focus for further instruction the staff would continue upon returning to the classrooms in 2018.

This week, Clarke staff will reconvene to work with Dr. James Henry and Amy Perricone, LMSW from West Michigan Children’s Trauma Assessment Center on the principles and integration of Trauma Informed Instruction for Clarke students and staff. The curriculum will be dedicated to learning more about the brain science behind these traumas, and how the Clarke staff, as educators, can foster resilience in Clarke students – making learning easier and classrooms safer.

“Educating students today is more than straight academics,” Steve Seid, Clarke Superintendent of Schools said. “It’s ensuring that each and every student has the tools to be productive adults.”

While the program will dive deep into how trauma affects students and their ability to function in the classroom, it also covers the trauma teachers and administrators within the school face on a daily basis. Trauma Informed Instruction not only guides instructors on how to help students manage a disruptive educational environment, but is ultimately intended to help create a functional, teachable environment. With awareness and additional skills learned through the program, Clarke staff will be prepared for issues that could arise and will have the skill set needed to help the students and themselves work through any potential problems.

“Knowing the effects of secondary trauma on adults and how the teachers can manage these issues to protect their own well-being is paramount for a conducive learning environment,” said Seid. “We have to remember, teachers are here to teach. When we can assure they have the tools and an environment where that can be done, everyone wins.”

While mental health support programs like Children and Families of Iowa counsel and support externally, the financial burdens created by the increased demand have caused departments like the Behavioral Health Intervention Service (BHIS) and others to close their doors. This sends children in need back to classrooms with more than they’re prepared to handle. Through the integration of Trauma Informed Instruction, Clarke hopes to better prepare staff and students for the future and any potential issues that may arise.

For more information on the implementation of Trauma Informed Instruction at Clarke Community Schools, contact Steve Seid, Clarke Community Schools Superintendent 800 N Jackson St, Osceola, IA 50213 or call 641-342-4969.