This blog is not going to be a list of credentials you need or courses you should take. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. The stuff you really need to do this job has little to do with what you learned in school. I’m a firm believer that you don’t need a fancy background, or a ton of content knowledge to be an amazing advocate for your students with trauma histories.
I look at my job, in this cozy corner of the internet, as your trauma informed mindset coach. Yes, I’ll give you some hard facts and data from time to time, but what truly impacts our students who’ve experienced trauma is more mindset-based than anything else.
So, I thought about what it really takes to do this job and how I could support you in uncovering the things you’d probably never actually put on a resume, but that are so valuable you should! I never thought I would be able to whittle it down to top 10 must-haves, but here they are.
These are things I truly believe are more important than content knowledge, brain science, or even skill. It’s more nuanced than ability driven and it’s important to frame these as a constant evolution. Not just an arrival. Sometimes I’m great at 8/10 of these and some days I’m just a solid 4.
We’re human and we have to cut ourselves some slack. We can’t be great at everything all the time, right?
But if you’re looking to create a trauma-informed teaching practice, or if you’re looking to expand your team, think of this list as a good place to start. If you can nail most of these down, more often than not, I’d say you’re doing great!
Okay, let’s get to it. Here are a few things I feel are non-negotiables to be effective in this work...
1. Being in the past, present, and future simultaneously.
Ever wanted to be 2 places at once? How about 3? This is your job as a trauma-informed educator. We have to remember that every past interaction with a student has informed the present. What you do in the moment decides how that students reacts to you in the future. Teachers have to think about all 3 stages in each moment.
2. Caring more about the kid than the student.
You can't expect to foster learning and see academic growth before you connect. Teaching content is our job, but it is not our priority.
3. Asking questions constantly and learning from every answer, or lack thereof, you get.
Reflection. The most underutilized part of this job. I want you to ask questions about students, but more-so about yourself. How are you showing up? What energy are you bringing? What bias are you holding? Don’t ever stop engaging in questioning!
4. Multitasking like nobody’s business.
This needs no further explanation. You just have to do it. Yes, it's exhausting.
5. Being genuine in absolutely everything you do.
Stop the cute teacher voice, let go of the frills, and just be you. Students don’t need you to be perfectly professional, they need you to show up as you! Bring that quirky, special sauce you’ve got and get real with your students. They are desperately craving it.
6. Letting sh*t go.
Channel your inner Dory and forget. Holding grudges against a student, their family, or a team member is a recipe for constant explosions. Master the art of moving on for our students’ sake, and yours.
7. Accepting when you’re wrong. And saying it out loud.
You will make a lot of mistakes. You will lose your patience, you will blame your team, you will judge. Take ownership and be prepared to communicate it.
8. Listening to your gut and using common sense.
You can have the best resume. A degree from a top-notch university, and still lack some good ‘ole common sense. Do yourself a favor and get some. If you can’t clearly draw logical conclusions, pick up on patterns, and have a little street smarts, you’re going to find yourself on the struggle bus, my friend.
9. Having incredibly difficult and awkward conversations.
You’re going to have to be honest with yourself, staff, and parents about the real deal of what’s going on in your classroom. If you can’t use your voice to advocate for students, you’re setting them up for failure. This work requires an open heart, but also a confident one. Communication is key.
10. Resigning yourself to the fact that you’ll have to pep-talk yourself on all of the above at regular intervals for your entire career :)
Like I said at the beginning, we’re human. We aren’t going to have Top 10 days every day. Don’t expect that of yourself, your team, or your students. When we show up consistently and always come back to basics, we’re much more likely to create a trauma-supportive environment that reaps success.
I hope you found some parallels between this list and your practice. I’m confident if you’re reading this, you connected to a lot of this!
Let’s continue this work of what it really means to do this job of trauma informed education and start creating trauma informed schools together!
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