Creating an Emotionally Safe Learning Environment

In this one-hour webinar, participants learn to identify trauma in educational setting and implement trauma-informed tools and skills to best intervene with students. We will be joined by a panel of educational and mental health experts to discuss how trauma can impact a child’s school performance and the ways educators and school officials can support their students’ emotional well-being.

Learning Objectives Include:

  • Define trauma in an education setting and learn new techniques to implement trauma-informed tools.
  • Apply practical skills to help students self-regulate emotional distress and manage trauma-related symptoms.
  • Describe trauma-informed resources that promote healing and educational development.
  • Learn how to move your students and clients to improve their school performance.

Featured Panelists
Benita Gordon, Education Concierge
Belinda Gordon-Battle, MED, MS, LMHC, QLS
David Duffy, MSW
Cherissa Watson, LMHC, CCTP
Noelle Carmen, host and moderator

Creating an Emotionally Safe Learning Environment Podcast, Video and Transcript

CARMEN: 00:04[music] Welcome to Recovery Out Loud, a Niznik Behavioral Health podcast where we discuss addiction, mental health, and recovery. We’ll explore the true nature of addiction with behavioral health experts and to hear first-hand personal testimony about what the path to recovery really looks like. From Niznik Behavioral Health, I’m your host Noelle Carmen.
CARMEN: 00:33Hello everyone, and welcome once again to the conversation. Today we are tackling the topic of what we need to know about safe learning environments and why this is so important to us as clinicians as we work with science in an educational setting. We have a fantastic panel today. I wanna welcome Benita Gordon. She is the founder of Global Education Concierge. Belinda Gordon-Battle, she is the owner of BGB Counselling Services where she serves as a clinical therapist. And Charise W-Watson, am I saying that right? Okay.
WATSON: 01:11Yes.
CARMEN: 01:12Um, a licensed mental health counselor and certified and clinical trauma professional. Welcome everyone to the conversation.
GORDON-BATTLE: 01:22Thank you, Noelle.
CARMEN: 01:23Yeah. Thank you so much–
WATSON: 01:23Thank you, Noelle.
CARMEN: 01:24–for being here. Okay. So we’re just gonna dive right into this.
WATSON: 01:28Mm-hmm.
CARMEN: 01:28We have a ton to cover. Um, I think we should go ahead and just start talking about what an emotionally safe educational setting means. Let’s just define that, first of all. Belinda, you wanna start us off?
GORDON-BATTLE: 01:44Absolutely. I can do that. Before I even get into that though, I wanna just thank you, Noelle, and Niznik Behavioral Health Center just for recognizing how important this issue is around our young people and trauma and our educators. So thank you for creating the platform and allowing us to speak on it. When I work in the school system I always want to make sure that everybody that’s in our circle understands how important it is for the educators to me emotionally healthy, and also for our young people, our students, our scholars to be emotionally healthy. That’s how we create a safe school, a safe community, and we allow our student to take that home. What that looks like in the classroom is that there is a relationship. The quality of the relationship between the educator and the scholar and colleague is intact, is healthy. We care about each other and we are getting the work done in the classroom. That, to me, is what an emotionally healthy school looks like.
CARMEN: 02:52Benita, would you add anything to that?
GORDON: 02:56Um, uh, the only thing I would add is that we also– now because we come– we’re coming back from being at home, virtual with the school building closed, but the school never shut down, we now have a larger, um, uh, increase ability to contact and communicate with parents. And so even though parents are not in the building per se with us, it is now essential, essential that we have a healthy relationship w– and not just the parents. I like to say now they’re adults, ’cause sometimes– a lot of times our students are not being raised by biological parents. They’re being raised by their adults in their lives. And so it’s important for us to have a, a healthy relationship with their adults.
CARMEN: 03:37What would you say to educators who are listening to this discussion on emotional safety and, and say– because I’ve heard– I’ve heard educators say this, “I was trained to educate. I was not trained to babysit. I was not trained to, um, emotionally attend to my students. That’s what I was trained for. Charise, what are your thoughts?
WATSON: 04:05I would say, you know, that that is common and we hear that a lot. But it’s things have have to m– take a shift. Um, you know, clients– counselors are trained to counsel. Teachers are trained to teach. But there are still some roles that you have to play, um, as being emotionally responsive, being open to, um, the learning and teaching that’s happening. It’s– they go together. They go hand in hand, so you can’t just stick to, “I’m a teacher and teacher by trade, and that’s what I do.” Um, we have to attend to the emotional needs to be able to create a safe learning environment for students.
CARMEN: 04:45Do you feel like that is a huge undertaking in and of itself to create a shift if there isn’t that fundamental understanding of how we think of ourselves? I’m not an educator, I’m just– I’m just saying how educators think of themselves in terms of–
WATSON: 05:04Yeah.
CARMEN: 05:05–emotionally meeting needs. Um, that in and of itself, uh, is an undertaking [inaudible]–
WATSON: 05:11It definitely is.
CARMEN: 05:14Oh, go ahead, Charise. Jump in.
WATSON: 05:15Oh yeah, it definitely is an undertaking. And it’s gonna take support and it’s gonna take time, um, to kind of– kind of collaborate with clinical professionals and educators coming together to kind of, uh, swap and trade tips and strategies that work in the classroom, that work in the therapy setting and kinda have them married in each place.
GORDON-BATTLE: 05:40I wanted to just add something, Noelle, because–
CARMEN: 05:42Yup.
GORDON-BATTLE: 05:42–one of the most amazing things for me that came from, um, working in the pandemic and allowing, like, Benita said, us to go into a virtual world. Where we could actually contact and interact with the adults, the parents, the guardians of our young people. But also it, it opened up an opportunity for educators to connect with clinicians on a whole completely different level. But when you say that educators sometimes say, “Uh, oh, I’m not responsible for the emotional piece.” I always say that gives– gets me to– gives me an opportunity to, um, differentiate between a teacher and a educator. A educator understands emotional safety, emotional health, and they are open to learning about those fundamental items, um, needed in their classroom space. And they will partner, collaborate as Charise said, with clinicians in their school and in their community to provide that level of support. Um, a teacher oftentimes will say, “I’m here to teach.”
CARMEN: 06:48Yeah.
GORDON-BATTLE: 06:48And there’s a period at the end of that. But educators, they have that ability to see beyond the, um, the print, the black and white in front of them. They have a tendency to be able to see the colors. And that’s where clinicians are able to come in and support. That is what makes us good partners.
CARMEN: 07:09So, so piece together for us, um, in terms of educations. Okay, so we get it. It’s important for emotional safety, um, y-you know, that, that sounds reasonable. Why? What is the significance in terms of education?
GORDON: 07:27Yeah, yeah.
CARMEN: 07:28Tie those pieces together for us. Anyone [inaudible].
GORDON: 07:31So one of the– one of the things that– well, I’m gonna go back a little bit. One of the things we see now is that we have to change how we’re preparing educators. And that goes back to that teacher preparation programs. So we have to literally start going back and saying, “I know that we have given you all these education classes, but you also need the education psychology class. You also need a, a class on how to do [conflict?] resolution.” So we have to go back and really, really, dig deep into preparing them before we release them from schools, from education into public schools, private schools, [inaudible] schools. And then the second part is, um, we know once you hit that class, you know, we are dealing with human children. Human children, humans, we do not– we will not do anything for you unless we trust you and we have a relationship with you. And that is in itself understanding the emotional aspect of our students. And in the midst of a pandemic– ’cause it’s not over, we have just shifted how we do things. In the midst of a pandemic, um, even in the midst of us educator, I caught myself the other day when I was speaking to a student and we, we needed to have a-a-an adult involved in the conversation. And I had to pause for a moment, and before I could say, “Your mother,” or, “Your father,” I had to say, “Who is the person right now that’s responsible for you?” That right there is how we make sure that we are emotionally adjusting ourselves at what we used to do, that is throwing that out of the window. And once I said that and get to understand that that was the best thing for that student ’cause she was being raised by an aunt. And so she was like, “Nobody’s every said to me. Nobody’s ever said, ‘Who is–?'” she said, “Nobody has ever put it like that where it made me comfortable to say, ‘Yes, m-my loving aunt has taken me in and she’s my provider,'” and not feel guilty or feel some kind of way about it. So we have to– in education, we have to stop what we used to do because everything has shifted and changed. Our kids have lost parents in the pandemic, and we have to remember that things have shifted. And, and the emotional part of it, it is– it is now our responsibility to connect with our students to understand that.
CARMEN: 09:44So okay. I’m hearing how important the relationship is.
GORDON: 09:49Yeah, yeah.
CARMEN: 09:49The relationship. The relationship. So let’s talk about what that ideally looks like. If you are gonna paint your perfect picture of, okay, here’s an educator, here’s our– here’s the educational setting, here’s the student, here’s what this relationship looks like. Paint that picture for us.
GORDON-BATTLE: 10:12So for me, the first thing for there to be a healthy relationship, and I have a special– um, I have a niche, niche in my practice as just for educators. Is their own spaces their own bubble? Is there opportunity to come in and to actually, um, decompress because the pressures and the stress from being an educator? Because we, we forget that educators– th-this is the only profession where you touch all of the other professions. The children that go through our schools become our doctors, our lawyers, etc., etc. But w– those people, doctors and lawyers, they don’t touch every child, you know? You have to remember that. So there’s a level of stress for educators. And for me, in my pursuit of the clinician, is to make sure that educators are as healthy as possible. I encourage them to become part of, um, and, and negotiate with their school system to make sure they understand how EAP, Employee m– Assistance Programs work, where they can actually receive clinical services so they can deal with their concerns, their own issues, their own trauma in their homes and in their families before they walk into the school, before the school bell rings. Are you healthy before you go into that school? So for me it start there. I’m working with our educators, um, and making sure that they are as healthy as possible.
CARMEN: 11:36Do you feel like this is a problem right now? Are we giving, um, the emotional support to our educators needed to create healthy, um, student? Where’s the– where– what are we missing?
GORDON-BATTLE: 11:51I think–
WATSON: 11:51Well–
GORDON-BATTLE: 11:52–we are moving into that direction but I don’t think we’re there yet.
WATSON: 11:57Yeah. That’s what I was gonna say. I think that the needs have shifted and changed with the pandemic. And so we have to adjust to meet the need. Um, but teachers are going through so much. Students are going through so much. Clinicians are going through so much. And this is a time where we’re all kind of experiencing some of the same things at the same time. So, you know, losing someone, the grief, the loss, the trauma. Um, maybe loss of, of finances. Um, maybe someone isn’t working. There’s a lot of different factors that are going on and we can definitely increase support for educators, for teachers, for clinicians, for students.
CARMEN: 12:34So let’s back to this idea of education, and because ultimately that’s what we’re talking about. Setting up the situation so that we have incredible education going on. So we’re talking about, um, healthy educators who create this environment for healthy students. But what happens in the educational process when all of these things come together? Can you give us, like, some [inaudible] on the ground examples of where it goes terribly wrong, um, so that we can contest is to the aha moment of when it goes very right? So what are our red flags here?
GORDON-BATTLE: 13:21Uh, I, I think one of our red flags is truancy. Um, when we have students that are not engaged and don’t feel comfortable and safe enough to come into the schools and interact and socialize with, um, their classmates, people of their own age, their peers. Truancy is an indicator that there’s some issues of safety and there are some issues of emotional concern that clinicians need to get involved with in supporting that process. And we have to partner with our teachers because they, they will be the first ones to let us know that there’s a issue with a student coming into the school. Um, and then once a student is in the school, there are things that can be red flags also. If they are still not able to engage, if you see students that are getting into verbal or even physical confrontations, um, with, with their peers and/or with staff. That is a red flag, that’s a concern that the teacher needs to alert the clinician and let the clinician know there’s something else going on here. And the– one last one I consider a red flag is on the c– it’s on the opposite end of the spectrum is when I see a student in a classroom environment and I see that everyone is engaged, and this one student is not.
CARMEN: 14:40Isolating.
GORDON-BATTLE: 14:42Completely–
GORDON: 14:42Yeah.
GORDON-BATTLE: 14:43–isolated, extremely quiet. I’m able to pull him or herself out of their own head. They are so stressed, they’re under so much, um, stress from whatever trauma may have occurred or whatever issues they may be going on, they’re not there. They’re not present in the classroom, in a school space. So for me, those are three red flags that I always look for when I go into a school environment.
CARMEN: 15:10Anyone else wanna add any other, um, red flags? Any other things to look out for?
WATSON: 15:17I would add, um, disordered eating, not really eating, kinda changes in their, their eating behaviors or changes in their, um, being engaged in activities that they used to really love and enjoy. They’re kind of pulling away and no longer going to that club, going to that, uh, sporting event or being a part of the team that they were a part of. Kind of withdrawing and, and kind of not having an appetite, not really eating. Just kind of being withdrawn to themselves.
GORDON: 15:46And I, I think for educators, um, for me is always a red flag in that school district or that school building, if there are no systems and logistics set into place for me to contact the clinicians. Um, if I’m seeing these things happening in my class and I’m, I’m watching the student, or the student says something to me that really at my gut is like, hmm, we need to– I need to send them to someone, um, other than myself, if they’re free or open to it. Um, I’ve been in schools where they actually had a, a QR scanner code, where the teacher or the student could scan it and then it will pop up for the clinician in our building. And they ca– I can say, “I need your immediately,” or the students could schedule some time. So that’s where it’s– like, come on now. Our kids know how to do that, and it’s private. You literally be standing there acting like you’re taking a selfie, scan a QR code, schedule a meeting, you have a– you know, you, you go in – it’s on their phone, that’s their pass – a-and then the, um, clinician writes the pass to come back to class. That’s what we see of doing it right. But we have to put– we have to get creative. We have to literally, um, train the teachers, let the educators in the classroom know these are some signs. Um, and, and there have been times sometimes where when we speak to a parent, there’s a, a easy for me to say, you know, “Hey, I spoke to so-and-so’s mom. Um, they are having a rough time right now. Please, you know, monitor, you know, this student in class.” That’s all. Like, teaching, we don’t need– we don’t need the 400, or the 411. We just literally need the full work to just monitor that student. And then the cli– and then if we see something else, to go to the clinician in the building.
GORDON: 17:25Um, and then last thing is, um, the reality is, we’re not just a teacher [inaudible] clinician shortage. We don’t have enough. We–
GORDON-BATTLE: 17:34Yeah.
GORDON: 17:34–do not– they’re not enough. And so we don’t have– um, their work– w– they are literally working hard in our building. Um, and it’s, it’s, it’s not enough because there’s a lot of one-on-one in a regular [inaudible]. And then we’re in a– in a– in a pandemic situation. So it’s it is just [inaudible]. Um, and so we definitely wanna encourage, um, our youth and our, our college graduates to go into, um, their [inaudible] psychology, sociology, become a clinical therapist for schools and for youth.
CARMEN: 18:07From a red flag stand of– uh, um, stand point, um, what about labeling? Do you find– so as we’re talking about all these red flags, um, emotional outburst, um, isolating, um, just all these different things that we’re talking about. Is there, from the educator’s point of view, or maybe not educators – educators versus teacher, right, Belinda? – where there– we tend to see these behaviors and then file a student as worst kind of a person. And then we just decided that that is the definition of that student, and then maybe not make any, um, movements towards helping that student.
GORDON-BATTLE: 18:58Yeah. I, I find that, um, most of the times teachers do make a effort to help the students. Sometimes they don’t know where to go or who to speak to about it. Um, sometimes students to get caught in the system. But if a s– if a teacher makes an effort to identify and label, that does not necessarily cancel a student out. It just means that the teacher realizes there’s something that they cannot identify– they’re not clear on how to help that child make progress. So it’s always beneficial to go back to the teacher and have the conversation, that dialog. If they just explain to me exactly what you saw, you don’t have to label it. Just explain to me what you see day in and day out. Give me a overview. What made you even think that there’s a concern and a issue? What was your first red flag with this child? And once you have that dialog with the teacher, with the educator, they-they’re able to understand that w– what we’re gonna do now is work with those symptoms. We don’t have to work with the label. The label will hold its own at another time, on another piece of paper, on another computer. But we’re gonna work with that human being, that human child in front of us so we could work with the symptoms that you see that are going on. And then that partnership, that collaboration, that bond comes in between teacher and clinician, when I can say as a clinician to a educator, “These are some strategies of interventions. I’m sharing them with you. If you open your door, if you open your classroom door and I open my clinical door, I can come into your space and help bridge that gap so that I can actually display and show you, um, exactly how to implement this strategy or this intervention in your space. But I can also work with that student to help him or help be able to utilize the strategies of interventions that I’m sharing with them in that space.” I can also call the parents and say, “This is what things we are doing at school. Do you mind trying that at home?” so that we can continue to support that student. And so that’s what makes it important to have that collaboration between the clinician and the educator, even, even though they may have labels. We put the labels aside and we do really work with that student.
CARMEN: 21:15And I wanted to make this question clear, maybe dive a little bit more. Um, this segues into what you’re saying. Um, we had somebody say, “How do you get students to explain what is wrong? Um, someone said, “I just had this happen today and the parents came to school today for a disciplinary hearing.” So, um, how do you get that conversation to happen?
WATSON: 21:43You have to kind of, uh, help students find the words. They, they may not have the words. They may not have exactly how they wanna say and describe what’s happening. Um, being patient, um, maybe having a, like a private setting where you can maybe pull them aside just you and then away from everybody else, away from their peers so that everybody doesn’t have to hear would be privy to what’s going on. Um, I used to be a teacher and this worked for me all the time. I would just, uh, pull them outside. Uh, they say, “I wanna speak with you Ms. Watson.” And, you know, the kids are working on something and I’m gonna be right outside or outside the door and then see what’s going on and just be really present, non-judgemental, open, and, um, supportive. And, and knowing that whatever they say, they, they can trust you. You know, there– tha-that’s where that relationship that we talked about before is so critical, because if they have that trust in you, they might not have all the words to say but they’ll show you in, in so many ways and you just have to help them along with, with that.
GORDON-BATTLE: 22:50Yeah. I love this question because I also think that – I agree with Charise – being patient and allowing that relationship so have that factor of trust. But what I would do differently is I wouldn’t say to a child that hesitated to speak, I wouldn’t say, “What’s wrong?” I would encourage a child to come in, “What’s going right? What do you–“
WATSON: 23:09Hmm.
GORDON-BATTLE: 23:10“–feel comfortable with? What do you feel good about when you come into this space?” And then from there you can draw a picture of exactly what that child sees in there in that classroom. And then slowly you get to, “What’s going on? What’s wrong?” It’s like give me four good things before I get to the one wrong things.
WATSON: 23:28That’s true.
GORDON-BATTLE: 23:29You know, let me celebrate you as the– where you are having, um, your good days. Um, what’s going on that’s safe in this classroom for you first? And then we’ll get to what’s unsafe for you. And that, that dialog right there will give you all the information you need, um, in order to move forward that child.
CARMEN: 23:46Do you have any, like, uh, anecdote for that? Yes, I was talking to a student and here are the things they were saying. Wh-what does that look like from a student’s point of view in terms of the things that don’t make them feel safe?
GORDON-BATTLE: 24:02Yeah. I definitely do because, um, I, I always worked in schools. Um, I think it’s one of the most important things that I can do is as I go into the school and work with educators, the students, the parents, administrators. Um, so oftentimes you have students that, that they just do not want to reveal immediately what their concerns are. They hold it tight to them. They don’t think that you’re gonna help them. And we have parents that may do the same thing. And so if you start with, “Tell me something that’s going good,” oftentimes the student would just look at you like, “What’s doing good?” But it, it reminds them that there are some things that are going well.
WATSON: 24:41Mm-hmm.
GORDON-BATTLE: 24:41Or you would not come into this building every day. So they may say, “Oh, the school bus ride is nice. Um, I like my [inaudible] coach. I’m a good cheerleader. I like that.” And then, after they give you a couple of things that they feel like they are confident about things that feels good to them, things they can trust you with, then you can say, “Oh, what about this class? It seems like you’re struggling in that class. Are there are some things that are good about this class?” And they, they, they will hesitate or they will tell you, “These are the things that are good, but these are the things that I’m having problems with.” Um, one time I know there was a student that was really, um, living below poverty level. And for that students, the difficulty was coming to the schools. And we found out through conversation it wasn’t the school. The difficulty was that the student cannot get access to laundry. So he felt very uncomfortable coming into the school and not having clean clothes. And so sometimes you will see like a educator– I’ve seen educators take students’ gym clothes home, wash them in their home washing machine and bring them back the next day. So that student will have some confidence, feel good about him or herself, and go to gym class smelling fresh and clean. That’s a educator. That’s the one who goes above and bel– beyond. And so for a student like that, if the school has access to laundry–
WATSON: 26:08Mm-hmm.
GORDON-BATTLE: 26:08I think principals do the same thing. It’s those little things that provide those basic needs, so that when that child is in that learning environment, they all of a sudden– it clicks for them. These people care about me. Let me listen to what they have to say. Let me do my best on Mrs., Mrs. Gordon’s– Ms. Gordon’s test because she cares about me.
WATSON: 26:27Yeah.
GORDON: 26:27Mm-hmm.
GORDON-BATTLE: 26:28That is a human experience.
CARMEN: 26:30So having the students’ real life, that these people that are educating us have, have my back. They have my back. They’re not just here to talk at me. They’re here to listen to the things that I have to say. And it seems like what I’m hearing from you is there’s a lot of, um, intersection here between trust and shame. There’s a lot of things, maybe even parents, have shame about. They don’t wanna get blamed. They don’t wanna get yelled at. They can’t– there are things they can’t handle that they don’t wanna admit, same with the, the kid. So it sounds like this relationship has to go, not only through the kid, but to the parents and the caretakers as well.
WATSON: 27:11Yeah. Yeah.
CARMEN: 27:14So you c–
GORDON-BATTLE: 27:13It’s kind of [crosstalk].
CARMEN: 27:14Yeah. Talk to us more about the shame piece of that and how to remove that.
WATSON: 27:21Um, I would say, um, to normalize the struggles that we face, t-to, to normalize it. I know la-la– just last week I was working with a student, and I work at the college level. Um, and having my session and checking up with them. Um, I s– you know, checked in on some different things and different things we talked about before. But I just asked one question, I said, “Are you eating?” Um, and her face completely changed. Um, and she looked like she was gonna cry. And I said, “You can tell me. I, I know that if– you know, it’s okay, just tell me. I, I can help you if you tell me.” Um, and she, she was like, “Wow, you know, I, I didn’t know that you really cared. But I know that you really care now. And I’m, I’m having trouble financially and I’m working late hours. And I don’t– I really don’t have that much groceries.” And so I was able to arrange, you know, some emergency aid, some, some, some gift cards to get groceries and things like that. So I know in that moment it was kind of a little bit, um, it was tough. It was tough for me and it was tough for her, but bridging that gap and saying, “Hey, it’s okay, um, you don’t have to be ashamed. You don’t have to feel about something that’s outside of your control. It’s outside of your control.”
GORDON: 28:40Yeah. Yeah. And I, I [inaudible] pre-K to 12 grade [inaudible], um, with a group of kids. And I think one of the things I’ve seen with parents is that, um, they don’t necessarily– they had a bad experience in school, which translates to, um, when we call and communicate about the students in school, is already a [inaudible], it’s already a [inaudible].
GORDON-BATTLE: 29:07Mm-hmm.
GORDON: 29:08And then it turns into now we, we become a [inaudible]. Um, and instead of us forging a, a u– so it normally takes us, um, we call it a three-text system. So I wanna– I wanna reach out to the parents three times to get to know them, to communicate with them. How do you need to communicate with me? Positive encouraging words, because then we form a relationship. And if there’s a need for a re-adjustment, we call it, or realignment, um, in behavior or academics, then it’s okay because they understand that angle and direction I’m coming from. And I also understand the angle and direction of parents they’re coming from. And when it comes down to shame, I think, um, Charise and Belinda both said it. It’s just opening that door and building that relationship. I have had students come to me, um, in the morning time and say, “Hey, I– um, do we have a wash and dry here at school?” I’m like, “We don’t. Which– tell me what you need.” I let them literally [inaudible] I seen a teacher go, um, to Walmart that day and [inaudible] some Walmart sneakers and wear them for the rest of the day because a student was being picked on about his Walmart sneakers. But this teacher was the teacher that all the kids loved. And when he put those Walmart sneakers on, i-it was a change– it changed the entire game. They were not Jordans. They are no– they are Walmart sneakers. And then ch– and he– and he was like, “Y’all joking on me about my Walmart sneakers? But look at my twin.” And it changed the game. And it is– it is us being able to, uh, I think normalize it. I think that’s the word I heard you say. [inaudible] here for us normalize several things. It’s also here for us [inaudible] encourage them. And I do remind my students, you’re not in charge of anything. You’re still a minor. Like, you– it’s– it did– literally it’s not your fault, but how can we help you?
CARMEN: 30:58So it sounds like meeting students and families where they’re at rather than having at– it all planned out, this is how it’s gonna go, here is– here– we’re gonna dictate to you how this is how this is all gonna go down. Um, instead, looking at each individual and being able to meet them individually where they’re at. But can’t you see, um, educators and even the system going, “Do you know how much we get paid? Do you know how, how hard our job is already?” I mean, w– how do you think this is gonna happen? So I wanna tie it with the educators in that way for some empathy there because that’s, that’s a big load to carry. Right?
GORDON-BATTLE: 31:45Uh-huh. Absolutely. As I said before, as educators, we have to do so much more to support them. Policies need to be changed. Salaries needs to be increased. And respect, respect for educators has to be increased. But now– understand now, thinking about educators. I’m not speaking about teachers. Teachers are in a different category for me. They go into the classroom, they do their five to s– um, seven to eight hours, and then they leave. Educators linger. I remember one amazing educator, when you speak about anecdotal, um, we were at lunch and he had Oreos. Now, I love Oreos so I snatched one, of course. And I watched him as he separated the cream from the cookie the entire time we were at lunch. And, you know, we’re talking. No one else is really paying attention to this. And afterwards I said, “Oh, so what was that about? Why are you separating cream from the cookie, because I’m a clinician and that’s what I do, I ask questions.” And so [laughter] he said to me, “I have one student who loves the cream. And so I eat the cookie, and then later on while that student is in tutoring, he has access to the cream.” Now, a lot of people won’t understand that, but if you understand relationships and how meaningful that is, and that Oreos, if I’m in poverty, Oreos are a treat.
CARMEN: 33:18Mm-hmm.
GORDON-BATTLE: 33:18That’s something I can’t get every day. I don’t have access to this every day. But if there’s somebody that remembers that the part of the Oreo that I like is the cream, you have just developed a relationship that’s lifelong. That student will never forget that teacher or anything that was taught in that classroom environment. So for me that relationship piece is so important and so fundamental that we have to make sure that when we are placing people, HR–
CARMEN: 33:47Mm-hmm.
GORDON-BATTLE: 33:47–human resources. When you place people in the school as educators, that you see beyond their degree. You see beyond them saying, “Oh, I’m willing to come in and teach.” So what else are you willing to do? Because these humans need more. You’re not gonna get paid. Your’re not gonna get rich as a teacher. Every teacher I know to this day has a side hustle, a side job, a side gig. They work somewhere else, 10 to 40 hours a week doing something else so that they can make sure they have enough money to buy Oreos for the students in that classroom.
CARMEN: 34:26Which segues beautifully into my next question. Because no one, hardly anyone I’ve ever talked with, goes into education for, for the money.
GORDON-BATTLE: 34:37Mm-hmm.
CARMEN: 34:37Right? Um, so how do we make this shift? Because I think that, that the notion of burnout, you get in after so many years and you’re, like, this is not what I was coming in to save the world. I can’t even get through my first few periods without being exhausted. And just, I’m emotionally giving up. You know what I’m saying? And so how do we make the shift? Because that’s valid, that burnout is valid.
GORDON-BATTLE: 35:08Not save the world, Noelle. [laughter]
CARMEN: 35:10Well, [inaudible]. Save the world.
GORDON: 35:13Save the world.
CARMEN: 35:13Save one kid at at time save the world.
GORDON-BATTLE: 35:16Okay. That’s [inaudible].
CARMEN: 35:16I don’t know. That’s where I would go to educate because I think somehow I’m gonna make a difference. Right?
GORDON-BATTLE: 35:21Yeah. Yeah.
CARMEN: 35:22So h-how do we make this– first of all, the incoming teachers, there’s gonna have to be a shift that the teachers that are there that are tired, that are burned out, that don’t wanna go to Walmart to get– you know what I mean? Um, where– how do we ignite that passion in them? Because it all comes back to, right, supporting them emotionally. Obviously, they don’t feel supported emotionally.
GORDON-BATTLE: 35:48Yeah.
CARMEN: 35:48They’ve got nothing to give at the end of it. So can we kind of talk about this cycle?
GORDON: 35:56So I’ll– I’m gonna say three, three tips really, really quick. Um, the first–
CARMEN: 36:01Oh, you don’t have–
GORDON: 36:01–of it is you need to–
CARMEN: 36:01–to go quick. Go slow.
GORDON: 36:04Uh, the first is you need to pay that professional educators that are in your building. Um, we went to college. We have several certificates and degrees that we have to maintain. And we have a license. Several of us have license in several states to teach. Um, and when you hear a first year teacher coming out and the starting salary is $35,000, and this is America, that’s not acceptable. So we have to start– then really have to realize our pay scale. Um, and it-it’s almost like we, we need to go back and do, like, corporate America. So a teacher teaching there in Mississippi and a teacher teaching in New York. If you’re a first year teacher, why is the salary so significantly different? It’s like significant, like, whoo. And we do understand cost of living. That is something we understand, but we also understand inflation. And so we wanna make sure that we are paying professionals. The second thing is– I’m gonna go back and I’m, I’m– this is like something that’s deep in my heart. We have to make sure that we are preparing educators. I love Bloom. I love Maslow. I love all of them. But we actually have to get into the realness of these are human beings, with entire families with entire histories. And, you know, people are like, “No, they are pre-K.” No, this pre-K has been for three years. They come with some stuff. [laughter] They, they have seen some things and experienced some things, whether it is age-appropriate or not, that is not for us to judge. This is how they’re being presented to us. And a third thing is something that keeps me going, um, on my roughest days, after I’ve had a nice cry in my cry, is that, um, the adults are sending me their best. They are literally sending me their best. And as a village, as a group, as a community, it is my job to try and figure out and navigate and differentiate. Okay, how do I make them into a productive citizen?
GORDON: 38:10And so with all of that, that’s just the beginning. But those three things right there are the beginning. Um, burnout happens in all professions. Uh, some professions are much more, um, understanding. They have systems in place with [inaudible]. Where education, we have been behind the eight ball. We are now, like– the avalanche is not coming upon us and we are under the avalanche. Um, and so we have to stop guilting educators, and that’s from administrators to cafeteria staff. We have to stop guilting them into doing things that, um, is not ap– great for their mental health, when we know what we know need from our own mental health and we need to allow them that space and opportunity.
CARMEN: 39:00We’re getting all kinds of, like, practically hoops and hollers here in the comments, like, “Absolutely. Well said. Yes, ma’am.” So I feel like everyone is with us in this conversation.
GORDON: 39:11Hmm.
CARMEN: 39:12Um, I wanted to bring in the topic of trauma, um.
GORDON-BATTLE: 39:15Noelle, can I just add one thing–
CARMEN: 39:18Yeah, please.
GORDON-BATTLE: 39:18–when it comes to supporting our educators?
CARMEN: 39:20Yes.
GORDON-BATTLE: 39:20And, uh, I, I, um, I interact with lots of educators. One of the most important things that we have to do is support and advocate the policy change and salary changes for our educators. There is no reason why every profession should not be recognized and involved and engaged at the school board meetings. That’s our tax dollars. Those are our tax dollars that are paying for teachers but also all the other things that are going on in the schools. And so we have to make sure that we are standing up, advocating for those teachers so they are not alone in the community. That they don’t feel like they’re always the only ones that are taking care of the educators, because we all need those educators. Even those of us who don’t have children. We have businesses, and people from schools go to work for our businesses. They are our clients in our businesses. We all have a responsibility to be in school board meetings, to be part of the PTSA to do whatever we can to volunteer in school, to say, I have a business. I don’t have a child but I have a business. How can I support this teacher? How can I make sure there are books in this classroom? How can I make sure that, that you have equipment in your cla– in your classroom that you need? How can I make sure that you have bottled water?” Is there– i– do we need to upgrade your coffee, uh, maker? What do you need? Because if we don’t do those things for our schools, then we are saying that it doesn’t matter, they’re not important, and they’re not a priority. So we a-and every profession, we need to step up and support our educators and, and the schools.
CARMEN: 41:09We are all clapping for you, absolutely. So I, I want to get back to this emotional health piece. Um, and, and I like to define trauma, um, and talk kind of from a-an– in trauma informed space here for a little bit. Um, in terms of– let’s just go and start there. So let’s define, define trauma. And then move into how that dynamic looks in a classroom.
WATSON: 41:41So I can– I can s– uh, define trauma. Trauma is an emotional response to, uh, a traumatic event. Um, and the event can range. There’s different, different types of trauma that you can experience. And it might not be something that happened directly to you, but it’s something maybe that you witnessed. Um, but it has the same impact and effect just as though y– it happened to you. Um, and it– you know, what’s traumatic for me may not be traumatic for you, may not be traumatic for Belinda or Benita. Um, but we have different ranges in how we respond to trauma. What was the as second part? How does it look in the classroom? Is that what you said?
CARMEN: 42:20Yeah. We’ll get to that. I ask too many questions at one–
WATSON: 42:23Okay. [laughter]
CARMEN: 42:24At one time. Um, the reason that I’m asking is because if we’re talking about creating an emotionally safe space, in order to create this excellent education, don’t we have to take into account trauma, um, and get-getting triggered in the classroom? And kind of what’s that also looks like? But yeah, I see you shaking your head. Go ahead.
WATSON: 42:48No. Absolutely. Absolutely. We have to be trauma-informed. We have to be educated–
GORDON-BATTLE: 42:53Mm-hmm.
WATSON: 42:54Um, what it looks like, um, what, what the signs and symptoms may look like. How it may present, um, with students, um, to be able to respond in a w– in a matter that is supportive and helpful for that child to work through and heal and get connected to resources or whatever they need, um, based on what happened to them. So it’s very, very much at the forefront. And it is something that, um, we need to look for and need to respond to. Especially in light of the pandemic, a-again, there’s s– there’s things that we’re seeing that we never seen before. I know for me and my clinical practice, I’ve never seen the level of trauma and the intensity of the trauma. Um, but it’s compounded by multiple factors. It’s not just one incident. There’s many things that are happening simultaneously that need to be worked through and addressed.
CARMEN: 43:48Are you finding– so this, obviously, necessitates the need for our, our educators to understand trauma?
WATSON: 43:55Definitely, definitely.
GORDON-BATTLE: 43:57Yeah. I find that the, the, the best educators assume that every student they are presented with has had trauma in their lives. That’s just the immediate assumption, and that our focus– our focus on, um, making sure my classroom is emotionally healthy. Because the probability is that students that are walking into this space have had some type of trauma, physical abuse, sexual abuse, a parent– or mental health issues. A parent incarcerated. Um, discrimination, bullying, homelessness, poverty. These are all a part of trauma. These all yield to trauma. So teachers who understand that, they develop classrooms and systems and spaces. You can go into a space of a educator. And to just into that space, you will know immediately. There’s a–
CARMEN: 44:52Mm-hmm.
GORDON-BATTLE: 44:52–understanding about trauma in that space. It looks different, it feels different.
CARMEN: 44:57How does that look with the clinical relationship? Why these– no one’s an island in any of the system. Do you have the teacher who, uh, is addressing the trauma? And then we go back to that notion of the, the educator who– I say teacher and educator, I realized–
GORDON-BATTLE: 45:14Mm-hmm.
CARMEN: 45:14–I’m using them all kind of the same. You’ve now made me very self-conscious [inaudible] [laughter]. Uh, but, but that relationship right now is clinical becomes ever so much more important. What kinds of conversations need to be happening now for us as clinicians, um, moving in the space of an educator?
GORDON-BATTLE: 45:40Uh, so, so one of the primary conversations that I like to have with a educator is actually going into their space, and sitting down with the educator and saying, you know, what, what are we working on here? What are things that you feel are coming to you into the space every day from your students? And helping them to identify what the student is bringing to their space from home, and then developing that teaching space, the education space where our students have a place to relax. I’ve been in classrooms where there is a calm down area, or a, a meditation area, or, um, understanding that if I– if I place, um, a carpet down right here. There’re some students that need the time to lay down on this carpet, not to sleep but maybe to read through their materials. A place to decompress. Um, there’s a station over here where they can actually go and put their headphones on and do their work. Um, that gives them the opportunity to decompress in that space, and I’m still working. Teachers understand centers.
WATSON: 46:47Mm-hmm.
GORDON-BATTLE: 46:48And education, that’s one of the things that they understand completely. So instead of just having a science [inaudible] writing center or social service center. They also have a center that addresses social-emotional learning. So that to me is an indicator that, that teacher understands that I’m gonna have students come into my space that may experience some trauma. I could tell you in my office that I have in schools, I always set up a sand tray. And a sand tray is right on the edge of my desk, it’s accessible to my student. They can come in, and while they’re talking they can calm down by playing with the sand in the tray. It’s just a matter of running your hands through that tray, and it’s calming. Just like when you go to the beach yourself and you walk on the sand. It calms you. But the interesting thing is, when my door is open, and educators come in because they need a moment to decompress. And they are sitting in that same chair. I may be engaged in doing something else but they are running their hands through that, that sand, because they also know I just need to bring myself down so I can finish this day. Parents come into the same space. They use that same sand tray for the same reason. So we have a responsibility to put things in place in our schools now that allow students to have a safe space, to decompress, to meditate, to have a moment of mindfulness. That should be part of our school day now.
CARMEN: 48:18I love what you’re saying. And, you know, we talked about all the large changes kind of that need to happen in the system. Hey– environment, so those kinds of things. What about immediate deescalation technique in the moment? Because I can guarantee you there are educators right now, clinicians who needs some advice on this. Like n– a chair just got thrown, someone’s yelling. I just got called an expletive and I’m triggered now as the educator.
GORDON-BATTLE: 48:53Yeah.
CARMEN: 48:55Talk us through some of that.
GORDON: 48:58Go ahead Charise.
WATSON: 49:00Well, I was gonna say– sorry.
CARMEN: 49:01I, I–
WATSON: 49:02Um, I was gonna say getting students to connect to the here and now and some grounding, some breathing, some relaxation strategies. Um, those are gonna be imme– in the immediate and, you know, right away to respond that will, um, t-teaching them those. You have to kind of teach them those skills first. Teach them how to breathe, teach them how to ground. Teach them how to meditate or be mindful. And then maybe have like a, a keyword or, or a trigger word for that so that when they’re starting to, uh, have their issue or have their, uh, t-those behaviors be present, you can kinda say that word and it will kind of spark, “Oh yeah, let me– let me take a moment.” Or letting them go to the cool down corner or what-whatnot. You know, having some– I don’t know if teachers are allowed to have aroma therapy, but aroma therapy having– yeah [laughter], those would– those would help bring a calming, soothing, um, response.
GORDON: 50:05I was– I was gonna say that. And so one of the ways that this is– I don’t even work at school, that’s [inaudible]. It doesn’t matter.
GORDON-BATTLE: 50:13Yeah.
GORDON: 50:13Uh, one of the ways– one of the things I would do, there’s a– um, I’m not gonna say the name of the company but my friend works for them and she send it to me as a gift. It is a, um, USB aroma therapy.
GORDON-BATTLE: 50:25Mm-hmm.
GORDON: 50:26So I will come in my room early and it was, um, lavender. I think I put lavender in there. And I would–
CARMEN: 50:32[crosstalk] USB?
GORDON: 50:32–come [crosstalk] and plug–
CARMEN: 50:34USB?
GORDON: 50:35It’s a USB. I will– I’m gonna send it to you later.
CARMEN: 50:37Okay.
GORDON: 50:37Um, [laughter] [inaudible]. And I will plug it in as I was getting my day started. And I will put on music. And it– I mean, I care– I’ve been to kindergarten, third grade, middle school and high school, it is something– lemongrass is the best. I’m gonna use that. Um, it is something about music and I will put in some jazz, and it would be instrumental. And, um, this would work. And I will make sure I click– so I have my– and will put them in for like five minutes, that’s enough to get the room engaged. And, and no– it [inaudible] lights off. And [inaudible] and that– it was something about that. It is something about, um, knowing your student’s triggers. It is also something about feeling the energy of the room.
GORDON-BATTLE: 51:23Hmm.
GORDON: 51:24If something has happened in the community, there’s something– a fight broke out bre– during breakfast, if there’s something in social media that’s just [inaudible], you can feel it. And so a lot of times, the teachers, we would say to the s– uh, it was something. We had, um, um, patrols or security officers, we can say, “Do you feel that?” They go, “Let me figure out what’s going on in the community.” Our clinicians would come in and we would text them, “Something is in the atmosphere.” And so they would know, like, we would all be kinda like calming but we’re also alert, because it feels like there’s a shift. Full moons. It’s a shift to the atmosphere, but. Um, and then one of the things you do have to, um, acknowledge– sometimes there are great apps. Um, and, and if you want a list of the apps, some– you can reach out to me. There are some apps I use. I use YouTube a lot. Um, there are some great animated films and sometimes we watch in the morning. But I do wanna say everyone jumped on the SCL bandwagon as we entered, um, school physical shut down and went to a virtual– which is w– is great. But if you’re not doing it correctly, is it not helping. So please speak to a clinician. Please get proper training for social-emotional learning, for the age group and the demographics you have that works for them. Because there are gonna be some kids that you’re gonna try some stuff and they’re gonna look at you like, “No. No, thank you.” And then it turns them all to mindfulness and it turns them all to, to growing their mindset in understanding what they need and who they are to help themselves become young men and young women. So we wanna make sure we’re doing SCL appropriately and correctly, a open-ended door for our clinicians, um, to come in. And a clinician should be able to walk into the class and just sit in the back.
CARMEN: 53:10Mm-hmm.
GORDON: 53:10And that’s [inaudible]. I have– there have been times, I say, “I need you to come to [inaudible].” I’m doing something wrong. This is– they can’t get it together, I can’t get it together. There’s something not right. They’ve been able to come in and observe and give me [inaudible], because third-party [inaudible].
CARMEN: 53:29So I’m aware of the time and I did get through most of the– of the, the topics. We had a bet going at the beginning. Um, but I, I would be remiss if we did not talk, um, at least a touch on substance use. Touch on how that’s affect-affecting the classroom. Um, I’m not gonna continue with this question. I’d rather you guys jump into what does that look like now for educators and clinicians in the educational setting.
GORDON-BATTLE: 54:05Uh, Noelle, I’m so sorry. You went out for me a little bit. I didn’t hear your entire question.
CARMEN: 54:11Can you hear me now?
GORDON-BATTLE: 54:12I can hear you.
CARMEN: 54:13Okay. I wanted to talk about substance use and I wanted to talk about ho– that dynamic now in the classroom, um, especially in light of vape. Right? How easy it is now. I mean, everybody is, you know, up in arms about vape. What this is looking like for the educational–
GORDON-BATTLE: 54:33Yes.
CARMEN: 54:33–setting?
GORDON-BATTLE: 54:34Absolutely. That’s a great question because, um, our vapers are becoming younger and younger. They have access– we do not think they would have access. They have gained access to all types of vaping, um, products and equipment. Um, uh, recently, this is anecdotal. Re-recently I was talking to young lady, and she explained to me that her teacher was not aware that the students were actually vaping in the classroom as she was teaching. They would open up a window and they would vape, and they were not vaping, um, lemongrass or apple. They were vaping marijuana–
CARMEN: 55:15Okay.
WATSON: 55:16Hmm.
GORDON-BATTLE: 55:16–inside of the classroom. And they knew, those students knew, that that teacher was not present. They knew–
WATSON: 55:22Mm-hmm.
GORDON-BATTLE: 55:22–that student– that, that teacher was not aware or that that stu– that teacher did not care. And so everybody wanted to be in that classroom because the opportunity to vape in school is like a dream come true for some students. And so I think one of the most important things that we have to do as clinicians and educators as we collaborate and partner, is to remember to share that information. The, the, the scene on the vaping world is changing so quickly.
CARMEN: 55:53Mm-hmm.
GORDON-BATTLE: 55:53Sometimes we can’t even keep up. And so when we know that these things are in our communities, we need to share that with educators. Let me show you what this looks like. This is what a vape looks like. Some teachers are not aware. Sometimes we have older teachers that are not aware of what’s going on in the community, and that needs to be part of the teacher [meets?]. This is what we found on the school ground, if you see this– this is what it smells like. If you smell this, that you are aware and that you allow, um, yourself to take note of that and to help that student get to, um, a-an administrator and/or a clinician so that they can work these issues out with the parent. Um, but be, be aware that there are things going on in the classrooms that educators, they have to maintain some understanding of the current trends in order for them to be successful in the classroom.
CARMEN: 56:51So I wanna end on a message of hope, um, for any educators, clinicians who are burned out in the educational–
GORDON-BATTLE: 57:01Yeah.
CARMEN: 57:01–uh, setting, who feel hopeless, who really don’t feel like there is a way out of their situation. They’re just gonna get that paycheck and go home, and they’re, they’re done. What is our message of hope for them?
WATSON: 57:19You got this. You can get through this. You will get through this. Lean on your teacher friends. Lean on your clinical therapist friends. Talk through what you’re feeling. Talk through what’s coming up so that you can see that you’re not alone in what, what you’re feeling and, and this burnout that’s overcoming you. And talk with your peers and colleagues about what are they doing that’s helping them. And maybe you can adopt some of the, the strategies that they’re using. But h– definitely get support. Take time for yourself. Practice self care. You know, look, look at what’s in your capacity and just do what’s in your capacity. Do what you can with what you have while you can. Don’t over extend, um, yourself. Even though it feels, you know– the, the need is great, but c– I would always say– also say connect to the community. I know I think Belinda said it earlier. There’s c-communities and businesses that maybe can partner with teachers and partner with clinicians to provide some support, provide resources, so that it doesn’t always fall on your shoulder. So reach out to the community and say, “Hey, can you adopt–” I know there’s like adopt, adopt a classroom.
GORDON: 58:31Mm-hmm.
WATSON: 58:32There’s different ways to get help. So, so get help where you can and get support, talk it out with someone and just take it one day at a time.
GORDON-BATTLE: 58:41I love that, Charise, because the message is definitely you are not alone. We, um, want to support you. We wanna be here for you. Please, as I always say, hashtag just be open, open to the process. Open to the process in trying therapy, because therapy is something that will help you in your personal and your professional career. It gives you an opportunity to talk through and walk through instances and things that maybe, um, hindering you from moving in the p– in the way that you wish to move. And so I encourage educators to sign up for, um, um, telehealth, to sign up to see a therapist face-to-face. Just try it. If it doesn’t work for you, then it doesn’t for you. But just try it and see if you can make some connections between what you’re going through, as far as being burned out, and how successful you are in your profession. So I definitely want to encourage all educators to collaborate with us clinicians, um, in your area. And because we’re virtual, all the world.
GORDON: 59:45And I would say, um, one [inaudible] of self care is not being selfish. We give every [inaudible] we know. We empty our cups on a daily basis. Like we get home [inaudible]. We [inaudible] now. A lot of us feel like it’s May, and it’s November. And we’re coming home, take a nap, it said 5 o’clock. Like, what is happening? So self care is not selfish. And put some boundaries in place.
GORDON-BATTLE: 01:00:11Mm-hmm.
GORDON: 01:00:11You taking that work back home and it’s sitting on the corner of your living room, and it’s sitting on the foyer and it’s sitting at the front door, and you’re picking it up the next day. No. Set some boundaries in place. Pick– use your, um, planning time wisely. And then the– and now we’re definitely saying, I heard Charise and Belinda both say it, it is a community. We have a community, virtual communities I’m a part of. We have teachers of Instagram. We have educators on Instagram. One TikTok. So please, please tap into a community where we’re able to vent professionally, but then also offer techniques of strategies to help us get through. ‘Cause it– yes, we do need to vent, but we also need to figure out, girl, okay, after you finish, what are we gonna do? How are we gonna maintain and what’s gonna benefit ourselves, our community, our students? So put your boundaries in place and practice your self care. Drink your water.
GORDON-BATTLE: 01:01:01All right. [laughter]
CARMEN: 01:01:04Benita, Belinda, Charise, I– what a superb conversation. Thank you so much–
GORDON: 01:01:11Thank–
CARMEN: 01:01:12–for, for just sharing your expertise with us. I wanna tell everyone you will get all of the contact information for these amazing clinicians, uh, in a follow-up email. Do not hesitate to reach out and ask more questions. Um, I also wanna say our next webinar is going to be December 2nd, new central, and it will be c– an incredible conversation on intervention. Um, and we have an e– we have an expert panel there, of course–
GORDON: 01:01:40Yeah.
CARMEN: 01:01:40–as always. So I wanted– I wanna thank all of you. Um, I hope you all–
GORDON-BATTLE: 01:01:44Thank you.
CARMEN: 01:01:45–have an amazing day, amazing rest of your week. What a great conversation. Thank you. Bye.
GORDON-BATTLE: 01:01:51Thank you.
WATSON: 01:01:51Thank you.
GORDON: 01:01:52Take care. Bye.
GORDON-BATTLE: 01:01:52Thank you.
GORDON: 01:01:53Bye [inaudible].