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Educators embrace trauma-informed instruction in fourth statewide summit


OKLAHOMA CITY (Feb. 16, 2021) – While many schools across the state were closed Monday due to winter weather, thousands of Oklahoma educators spent their snowy President’s Day learning how to recognize trauma in students and create teaching strategies to overcome stress and fear that can obstruct learning. The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) estimated up to 4,500 teachers, counselors and other school leaders attended its fourth statewide summit for trauma-informed instruction.

The one-day virtual conference, “Awareness to Action: Creating Trauma-Informed Schools through Multi-Tiered Systems of Support,” went beyond previous OSDE summits in its focus on using an equitable, targeted framework designed to address students’ academic, behavioral and mental health needs, better known as MTSS. 

Keynote speaker Heather T. Forbes challenged participants to learn the language of trauma, explaining how student reactions that originate from a lens of fear need a calculated, caring response from teachers who understand how social-emotional struggles can manifest in disruptive behavior.

"Our kids are coming to us from a very different lens. Instead of coming from a love-based place, they’re coming to us from a fear-based place. So many of our students have a level of anger," said Forbes, who has authored books on students in trauma. "Anger is armor. So many of our kids are carrying around deep pain."

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It was a wonderful day of training.  Heather T. Forbes led the way focusing on building safe relationships, validating emotions, and responding to behaviors through co-regulation.  The break outs I saw were great examples of trauma informed work being done in some Oklahoma schools.

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