Creating a school culture to help students overcome trauma and engage in learning

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At Honey Run Academy in Paradise, California, many students have experienced traumatic events like substance misuse in the home, abuse, or homelessness. But educators and staff have created an environment that makes them feel welcome and safe, from providing meals to having washers and dryers in the school for students to use.KQED’s MindShift featured a podcast on how educators and staff have created a welcoming culture for learning:

“Children have to be healthy enough to learn,” said child psychiatrist and Stanford professor Shashank Joshi. “That’s something that all school districts can agree on. And mental health is part of overall health.”

At Honey Run Academy in Paradise, California, principal Dena Kapsalis and her staff are careful not to assume anything about their students — what kinds of homes they come from, or even that they have homes.

If it is the case that a student is homeless, which Kapsalis said is common, she and her staff consider this when acknowledging a student. “We know that there’s nobody getting you up in the morning. We know that you’re on your own and yet you’re here,” said Kapsalis. “It’s five minutes before the school starts. That tells us that you want to be a student today that tells us you want to be successful today.”

The school’s environment is built from the idea that each student is an individual and that every interaction is significant. Even a student’s added selection of fruit with a meal is recognized. Multiply those moments over the course of a day, a week, a month and you start to see children growing healthy enough to learn.

Listen to the podcast to hear more about how staff and teachers work with kids who have experienced serious trauma on MindShift’s Podcast, here:

And, read more about school culture, its effect on student learning, and more:

Source: Overcoming Childhood Trauma: How Parents and Schools Work to Stop the Cycle