Training, Conversation, Impact

Posted by Brock Morlan on January 2, 2018 in training, trauma informed, trauma informed approaches category

Since my initial training with The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children (TLC), a program of the Starr Global Learning Network (SGLN), I have had the opportunity to speak to many educators, public health administrators, juvenile justice authorities, and afterschool care workers about Trauma Informed Care. I have hope that these professionals will take that work into their careers and help transform children’s lives, as well as reflect on their own life, in order to use a trauma informed “lens”. However, I can only hear from others about how things are going with their school, their children, and what they are doing.

I chose to write about something that is personal, local, and immediate, which is my own school in Machesney Park, Illinois. In an earlier blog post, I wrote about our decline in behavior referrals in my school due to the training that I received from TLC and providing that training to the school staff. That decline in referrals was a great thing to see on paper, because it showed that this is working, but that only touches the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creating a Trauma Informed School. I am proud that referrals and office visits are down. Radio calls are down. Staff members are recognizing the difference between a crisis and a disruption in their classroom and what THEY can do to help instead of calling for help. The opportunity to empower all school staff with tools to work with the students that have, and are, experiencing Adverse Childhood Experiences is something to celebrate.

However, there is a "below the line" conversation among staff that has truly made an impact. There is a culture of seeking to understand before consequences are given that is taking place. When I enter the lounge, walk by classrooms, or see a student talking one on one with a staff member, I hear conversations about how they are feeling. I see staff members sitting with students in the comfort corner that is in every room engaging in conversations with them about their life, even after they ripped up their paper and threw their pencil on the ground. Recognizing that there is more behind an act of “defiance” and that there is an opportunity for every staff member to invest the time to go deeper into what is truly happening in that student’s life. Would it be easier to call the office because a student refused to work and ripped up their paper? Yes. It would. Would that help that student cope with whatever is happening in their life? Or is it an opportunity to create a relationship of trust, love, and understanding? If you have a trauma informed “lens”, you will likely believe the latter.

I recognize that this work also falls on me as an administrator in more ways than just training staff. With curricular demands so high and the amount of workload put on a teacher, I’ve made it more than okay to take the time to have those conversations. Without the ability to understand the student on their level, they will be unlikely to learn what has been planned. The greatest lesson with perfect execution can be completely lost because “stressed brains can’t learn”. If that is something that can be engrained into a school culture, social emotional learning can take a front seat, and when it does and students can feel safe and loved, then learning can take place. Then that lesson becomes even more rich and meaningful. Then you can have high order thinking with your students. Then you have reached students on multiple levels. Then you have truly made a connection. Children remember how you make them feel.

So with all of the feelings that took place over the holidays, times with those you care about, the feeling of unconditional love from those in your family, remember that these aren’t what every child experiences over their winter break. But we have the opportunity and the gift to give them that experience in 2018. Make this the year that you have those conversations, because the children that need it the most will likely never forget how you made them feel.

These crucial conversations and opportunities are a direct result from the training I received from TLC. I encourage everyone to learn more about Trauma Informed Care through one of the many online courses, or live trainings  you can schedule at your school, district or organization. I did, and it made a fundamental change in hundreds of lives here in Illinois.

Brock Morlan

About Brock Morlan

Brock Morlan is an elementary school principal and educational consultant. Brock has taught multiple grade levels in elementary school and spent two years as the assistant principal in two elementary buildings in the Harlem School District. This is his 4th year as the principal at Marquette Elementary in Machesney Park, Illinois. He is a Certified Trauma Practitioner in Education and also serves as the head principal on the Student Behavior Committee which reports to the school board. Brock graduated from Illinois State University for his undergraduate degree in education and received his master’s degree in school leadership and administration from Olivet Nazarene University. He plans to start his doctorate this year.  Brock is married and has 2 daughters and loves to make music videos with his students. 

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