Fall-Hamilton Elementary: Transitioning to Trauma-Informed Practices to Support Learning


(birds chirping) – [Mathew Portell] We understand the effects of adverse childhood
experiences nationally. This is not an issue that is just isolated to my
demographic in my school. You’re gonna do great aren’t you? Okay, nice work. We understand what it does to them now and potentially in the future. We’re right off of downtown Nashville and we’re in the midst of some serious transformation in gentrification. And so a lot of our students
are being displaced. We have students who are currently experiencing some serious
tragedy in their lives. And we know their stories and we take a proactive approach here to make sure their needs are being met. Doing all right today? The old approach was you’re at school you need to be at school and play school. And it was compliance driven. But the trauma approach is taking a completely different lens. They have to feel safe,
they have to feel nurtured and they have to feel supported. (children talking) (child singing) When kids walk through the door they don’t leave everything
that has happened at the door. They’re still developing emotionally, they’re still developing cognitively. And we want to give them
the ability to do that in a safe environment that is school. To be quite frank, this transformation is more about adults than it is kids. – You had a perfect day? – [Mathew Portell] It’s
about giving the teachers the understanding and support to be able to meet the needs of the
kids on a basic level. – One, two, three, four, five six. There was a big mind
shift, for me especially. My students might have had a bad day something happened at home,
no one was home last night. You can’t just be like
come in and do math now. So, when they know you can trust you and they can talk to you, their academics start to blossom. – [Mathew Portell] One of the most transformative strategies
is getting someone who is trained in understanding students mental health needs. – I was brought in as part
of the district initiative to increase the awareness
and knowledge of ACES, which are adverse childhood experiences. Class been okay? – Yep – So coming in and identifying different trauma informed practices that we can implement here in the school. – [Mathew Portell] One of the foundational programs that we’re utilizing
is The Leader in Me. A lot of people are very familiar with The Seven Habits of Highly
Effective People for Kids. And so here we foundationally teach our kids the seven habits. – You’ll see the posters around the school and you’ll see the kids, they
know all of the seven habits. And they will spout them out to you. – The seven habits has helped me because I had to put first things first. I had to make sure that
I was getting good grades and not starting drama with any kids. – [Mathew Portell] We
also build the students capacity to develop the leadership skills by giving them a class in leadership. It’s part of our specials rotations. Kindergarten through fourth grade are part of The Leader in Me curriculum. – ♪ Be proactive, be proactive ♪ – We share this common language. It is so amazing with putting
everybody on the same page. Building that positive school culture in an environment where everyone feels empowered to be successful. – [Mathew Portell] We
now have students leading other students in different activities throughout the building. – Who wants to go first? – [Mathew Portell] And we value that. – Good morning leaders,
the time is eight o’clock. – Traditionally in most schools you’ve got the iridescent lighting that burns their eyeballs like laserbeams. But here we have teachers who
use a lot of low lighting. Some of our rooms have calming colors, utilizing color as a strategy. We also use essential oil diffusers with just understanding
that your body is sensory. We utilize mindfulness as a strategy in understanding that smells and things around you are helpful. One of the approaches that
we’re using are peace corners. – A peace corner is like, a place where you can just chill out. If I get like, really
frustrated and feel like I’m gonna yell or when I feel really sad, about to cry I go to the peace corner. – [Mathew Portell] It’s
a proactive approach. And so many times we give kids strategies but we don’t give them a time or a place to practice those strategies. (students talking) – We’ve really put a lot of effort in building positive relationships. Under that there are strategies, and one of them is our check
in and check out system. – [Emily Chadwick] Hey Mariah – Hi – Ready to have another great day today? – Yep – Awesome – My check in, check out buddy, her name is Mariah and
she’s in fourth grade. She comes to see me at the beginning and at the end of every day. What are your goals for today? – Listen, be on task and nice – Awesome She has three goals
everyday that she works on. She can get zero, one of two points for each of her goals. – And then at the end of the
day, they know where they are. How was your day? – Good. Actually it was fantastic. – Fantastic? People will see point sheets but the most motivating piece of our check in and check out system is the mentor/mentee relationship. – You go to him and he
asks about your day. And if you had a problem somewhere, we’ll talk about that and
see how you can fix it. – The child knows everyday
they come in this building that somebody’s excited
to see them in the morning and excited to see them
right before they leave. So do you think you can
knock that out of the park? – Mmhm – That’s what I’m talking about. And it’s that positive
in, positive out mindset. – You did it with me. – That’s right no but
you did it on your own. That’s you my man, nice work. That’s been a huge success. Last year was a tough
year, it was really tough. We didn’t have the support systems fully in place that we have now. I didn’t support teachers in
the way that I should have and could have because
I was a new principal and I just didn’t know how. But that all changed
at the end of the year when we all just as a
team sat down and said we’ve gotta do something different. Our paradigm has to shift where we’re talking about not only how to support students but
how to support yourself. Self care. – We know you can’t help
others until you help yourself. Sometimes this job is hard,
this job is exhausting. Sometimes you just need a minute. (keyboard tapping) Tap in, tap out is something
that we’ve developed. You can text someone and be like, hey can you cover my class,
can you give me a second. And we will gladly cover one another. You sometimes just need to ask for help. And it’s okay and it’s
really accepted here, and it’s promoted. – This is gray. – That’s gray? – [Mathew Portell] Operating in trauma informed approach is a blanketed approach for all kids. – You all have done outstanding work. – [Mathew Portell] We have to be able to help them manage their
experiences in productive ways. – What’s your favorite on there. – [Mathew Portell] It’s
not compliance driven, It’s a we’ve got your back approach. (birds chirping)

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