The Gephardt Institute’s Each One Teach One program is most commonly known as the university’s signature tutoring initiative, working with 80 WashU students to serve over 70 local 1st-3rd graders. The mission of Each One Teach One as part of the institute’s K-12 & Youth Initiatives extends beyond weekly tutoring at KIPP: Victory Academy. The program also seeks to educate and inform the campus community on issues related to education and equity. In November, Each One Teach One hosted their fall enrichment event, a semi-annual panel discussion in which local leaders and scholars address a topic relevant to the education field. Tutors are encouraged to attend, and the event is open to the entire community. This year’s audience totaled over 125 attendees.
This semester’s event, entitled “Trauma-Informed Teaching: How Gun Violence and Childhood Adversity Impact the K-12 Student Experience,” addressed an issue that affects many students in St. Louis and across the nation. The panel centered around how the trauma that children are exposed to outside of the classroom affects their ability to succeed in school. Six local education leaders and community stakeholders discussed the recent uptick in gun violence in St. Louis and how schools have responded by implementing trauma-informed teaching practices and other measures. Panelists included Megan Marietta, Dr. Sharonica Hardin-Bartley, Robert Motley, Emily Luft, Farrakhan Shegog, and Marshata Caradine-Randall.
- Megan Marietta, MSW, LCSW has served as the Manager of Social Work Services for St. Louis Public Schools for the past ten years and leads the district’s initiative to become trauma-informed.
- Dr. Sharonica Hardin-Bartley is the superintendent for the School District of University City, which serves nearly 2,700 students and more than 230 teachers. Under her leadership, the district has undertaken a vision of “Learning Reimagined” which aims to “humanize, personalize, and problematize the student education experience.”
- Robert Motley, MSW, is a Ph.D. Candidate at the Brown School of Social Work where his research broadly examines community violence and related mental and behavioral outcomes for emerging adults 18 to 29 years of age.
- Emily Luft, MSW, serves as Program Director of Alive and Well Communities, overseeing Alive and Well’s efforts to help schools become more trauma-informed.
- Farrakhan Shegog, founder and president of Young Voices with Action, helps to foster the growth of young people in St. Louis and support and empower community action.
- Marshata Caradine-Randall is a commentator, writer, educator, education advocate, parent educator, mother, and grandmother. She taught in District 189 of East St. Louis Public Schools.
Each panelist had a unique and valuable perspective to add to the conversation. As Anna Schoenfeld, class of 2020, noted, “Although our panelists were all approaching this challenge from different angles—as school social workers, superintendents, researchers, and leaders of organizations—they were all on the same page about how important this issue is and felt equally passionate and hopeful about the work they were doing.” Anna, along with Thomas Moy, class of 2021, serves as an Each One Teach One Coordinator and helped to spearhead the event. On the impact of the topics discussed, Anna shared, “The discussions of community trauma were particularly interesting. We often hear educators talk about individual children who have experienced traumatic events, but it was eye-opening to hear about the ways that increased presence of trauma can impact an entire community and how that manifests in the classroom.”
Other major topics of discussion included the identification of trauma in school settings, the impact of family background on trauma, how educators can respond to trauma, and what WashU student volunteers can do in the classroom. The panel opened with a discussion of the definition of trauma. Emily explained that trauma is nuanced and is experienced in layers on an individual, historical, and community level. A traumatic experience, Robert emphasized, can be a single event or a chronic situation. Drawing from his research, he described the long-term effects of childhood trauma into adulthood. To illustrate the impact of trauma on a child, Sharonica shared a metaphor: “If you take a can of soda, and everyone shakes it, starting with the person in the corner and ending with the last person in the room, what would happen?” Of course, when someone tried to open it, that soda can would explode. This, Sharonica said, is what happens to a child who has repeatedly experienced trauma.
How can schools respond to best support students? One solution is trauma-informed teaching. Some examples of trauma-informed practices that Megan shared include checking in with students about emotions through a tool like a morning emoji chart, providing areas of limited choice and control like choosing a pen color or selecting a seat from a few options, creating consistency and structure, and responding to behaviors with a trauma-informed lens.
The issue, however, is bigger than the school system, involving a range of social structures, including family life and the criminal justice system. Marshata emphasized the role that parents play in a child’s education and the importance of involving families in policy. Farrakhan reminded the audience to be aware of their own social identities when entering community spaces and encouraged more cultural competency training, noting the lack of people of color involved in decision-making around these educational practices.
The goal for the enrichment event, Anna shared, was for Each One Teach One tutors and the broader WashU community to gain a deeper understanding of the local and national educational landscape. “We hope that these events inspire our tutors and WashU community members to learn more about challenges in education and get involved,” she said. Thomas agreed, emphasizing the importance of prompting tutors to think beyond their weekly tutoring sessions to the broader educational landscape. “It was very valuable to hear from experts on trauma-informed teaching and their approach to education in general,” Thomas reflected. “I think it made us better educators and community partners.”
Learn more about the Gephardt Institute’s K-12 & Youth Initiatives here.