A Look Into MHS’s Trauma Informed Committee

by Elizabeth Yang ’22

Source: Hewlett Foundation

Published Feb. 24st, 2021

In recent years, MHS has made many efforts to improve inclusion and acceptance within the community, some of which are overlooked by many. MHS’s newly-launched Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program contains a committee, formed last school year, dedicated towards fostering compassion and understanding in learning environments: The Trauma Informed Team.

Formed to foster a culture rooted in the consideration of each student’s individual needs, the Trauma Informed Team strives to prioritize the student-teacher relationship to build suitable learning environments. “It is important that aside from grades, students are seen through a lens that acknowledges their history and personal needs that teachers may not be aware of,” says Viveka Mandhyan, a member of the Trauma Informed Team.

The committee plans to train teachers to understand brain development and how stress and trauma can interrupt regular functioning, which will allow them to recognize signs that a student may be in crisis. Even when they are not dealing with such difficulties, this training will enable teachers to better reach out to and work with their students. 

Following training, teachers will be able to incorporate practices into their classrooms that will recognize and support emotional and psychological student needs, which can include teaching effective ways to regulate emotions like frustration and anxiety, methodizing mindfulness, and making fidget activities readily available. 

Nothing would be forced upon students—instead, the team hopes that these methods will naturally progress into a routine that will feel comfortable and genuine for everyone. The intention is to lay a foundation, with small changes over time, that will better the MHS learning environment. 

“When you’re approaching education through a trauma-informed perspective, there is a big emphasis on being empathetic, understanding people’s needs and differences, and addressing how each person’s unique life experiences impact them,” says Mandhyan. “Looking at the details of a person and how they impact their behavior recognizes their diversity.”

Though the Trauma Informed Team has not yet fully immersed its plans into daily MHS life, it has already made contributions to the community. When the state went fully virtual for learning in March 2020, the committee launched its “Cougar Community” website, which provided resources for self-care and navigation through the stressful times. It includes various mindfulness ideas, such as yoga, meditation, journaling, and music-listening. There are also family-specific activities for young children, as well as a plethora of ways teachers can maintain engagement with students virtually. 

Looking through a wider lens, the committee is already making great strides towards a more considerate and inclusive community. Its efforts will not only boost overall learning productivity, but also cultivate communal care between students and teachers. “I want students to know that there are adults who care about them for who they are and are working to create a climate where that is more easily noticed,” says Mandhyan. “There are people who want to see them for who they really are because who they are is important.”

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