DECATUR – Kay Green is learning alongside her students at Franklin School.
Every morning, she holds a restorative circle, and students who are having trouble at home or not feeling their best can talk it out, and it ensures the day won't be as rough as it might have been.
Educators from the five pilot schools in the Trauma-Informed Partnership are training with Kevin Jones from the International Institute of Restoration Practices. He was helping them understand the difference between restorative practices and restorative justice.
“Restorative justice is what we do after a big incident,” he said. “Restorative practice is what we do to prevent the incidents. It's building relationships with the kids to build a strong school, people working together.”
The idea is to create empathy in the students and the adults, but the adults have to change their way of thinking first. They learn to realize a behavior may have its roots outside of the school day and that traumatized children's brains are even structured differently due to the trauma they've been through.
“They're going to be trained to do the restorative practices so they can go back into their schools and train the other teachers,” said Jill Reedy, assistant regional superintendent for the Macon-Piatt Regional Office of Education.
The program trains educators to be responsive to trauma and provide an understanding environment. It's a matter of approaching interactions with an attitude of understanding that behaviors might not be disobedience, but a triggered reaction due to a trauma in the past or present. It's a process that Franklin and Muffley grade schools in Decatur, DeLand-Weldon schools, Sangamon Valley and Argenta-Oreana Grade School is just getting started.
The Decatur School District also has a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to extend trauma-informed training in Eisenhower and MacArthur high schools, Phoenix Academy, Stephen Decatur and Thomas Jefferson middle schools, separately from the partnership.
Representatives of the pilot schools meet monthly, said Dani Craft of the Education Coalition of Macon County. The group has been asked to present at the first Trauma-Informed Conference in St. Louis in June. Eventually, the training will be provided to all area schools.
Argenta-Oreana teacher Sara Neisslie said it can be uncomfortable for both students and staff to open up to each other, but that's necessary to talk it out when trauma is affecting students.
The Illinois Education Association is working on training sessions throughout the state, said Amelia Finch, director of UniServ.