square bulletSupporting Trauma Informed Care in Rural Schools, Part I

Ana Hristić, MA, LCSW, Director of Education & Workforce Strategies

I wanted to unpack the 6th principle, within the context of of education and training, using a most recent example. I’m excited to tell you a little bit about a project that we are going to be wrapping up in a couple of weeks. So much has been learned along the way, and lasting connections have been forged.

With the support of a small grant from Oregon Community Foundation, and continued funds from OHA, TIO embarked on a pilot project supporting champions of TIC in rural schools via a hybrid (synchronous and asynchronous) online training and coaching model. 25 people, across 5 different regions, participated in this enriching mutual learning experience. We’ll be coming back together in August for our last synchronous session, and we’ll be sure to tell you more about the findings of the pilot in our next newsletter.

In the meantime, I wanted to share with you examples of the 6th principle that came up during the formation and execution of this project. I’ve come to understand the 6th principle as a (rather poorly worded, in my opinion!) way to apprise TIC implementation toward consideration of context…that is, to be trauma informed is to center the cross-sectional context, honoring the needs of specific identities, and cultural and historical considerations. Thus:

  • First, we listened. After several listening sessions and integration of feedback from our rural Champions, we devised a plan to host several teams of people, made of ESD representatives and school personnel – including teachers, of course. This first step was critical to fully honoring the voice of the people, and capturing the complexity of experience potentially impacted by the project – having a robust pulse on the culture of the region and the school itself.
  • Next, we collaborated with several statewide community trainers to develop short video content building off of some of the Foundations curriculum we already had. Bringing down the scope of the content to that which schools and school personnel would find applicable was important to being responsive to the unique context that schools abide in.
  • Next, we made efforts to connect with and honor each participant’s time, including using some of the grant money to pay for participation itself via an honorarium. Especially given the circumstances of COVID and all the educators have had to be responsive to, it was important to honor the context in this way.
  • Next, in addition to asynchronous online sessions, we held 4 synchronous gatherings where participants could troubleshoot content that they’ve been working with or use the time as case consult time with TIO. The richness of these discussions really underscored for us how important context is and how much context wants to be known and seen. In some cases, TIC has already been brought to the communities but had left a failed bitter taste in people’s mouths. In other cases, trust had been broken that needed mending first. And in others, cultural norms of the specific community (to an untrained eye) appeared to go against the current of TIC itself. Each of these and many more such aspects of context were brought into light, so that the TIC training itself, and later TIC implementation, could actually be relative to the body – literally and figuratively – that was going to be impacted. Because TIO’s training explicitly seeks to be antiracist and culturally humble, lifelong learning was centered for all as we unpacked context during these sessions.
  • Lastly, at the completion of their formal learning experience, each team was asked to put together a report to summarize their learnings specific to the context of their school. Folks shared plans for where they would like to take TIC next, and explored past, present and future barriers to implementation that they could identify. The 6th principle was very much embedded in people’s work, both as they made a case for why TIC was needed in their schools, but also as they creatively considered who else needed to be at the proverbial table in order to TIC implementation to be successful and sustained.

In the next newsletter, we’ll share about the findings of this pilot. I found the example helpful, however, in exploring the 6th principle which in many ways appears to be the underlying one for all others. Context – and centering context that is in direct relationship to the systems it engages with – is critical to training and application of TIC.