TIPP 4: Build Community
Building strong school and classroom communities is fundamental to a system-oriented trauma-informed approach. Strong school communities are those in which all members feel safe, welcome, and valued for their contributions. Strong communities are also places where differences based on race and social identities are embraced and celebrated. Schools with a strong sense of community not only support academic learning but also emphasize social and civic engagement. Fairness and concern for others are central components of a highly functioning school or classroom community.
Strong relationships (TIPP 5) are based in strong communities. Relationships will flourish when communities function as caring environments. Emotional and instrumental supports are critical in the time following traumatic events. Relationships at all levels are important, including teacher–parent, teacher–student, and student–student relationships.
To develop and sustain strong communities and relationships, experts recommend holding school-wide events, providing service-learning opportunities for students so they can work together on behalf of the larger community (e.g., clean-up events; convening classroom meetings). How teachers choose to begin the day also sets the tone for the rest of the day. Kriete and Davis (2014) call the classroom meeting time the “Morning Meeting” and suggest that this time be used to establish trust and promote a sense of belonging among members of a classroom community. A “Morning Meeting” also provides a recurring practice of gathering so that students can greet one another, share stories, and prepare for the day’s activities.
Sports teams, clubs and organizations are another way to build community and strengthen relationships. Encouraging student-led clubs can also help students develop interests and explore identities in a safe environment.