How does Cookson Hills “do school differently”?

Each day students walk into schools all across the nation with pencils, paper, a backpack, and their unique life experiences. At Cookson Hills, many of these unique life experiences have been impacted by past abuse and neglect which has left a traumatized hole in their hearts.

Today’s research has shown that trauma can negatively impact a child’s ability to learn, create positive relationships, and respectfully behave in a classroom setting. In order to get students back on track academically, they need a school to approach them differently.

That’s where we come in. Our Trauma-Informed Care model influences everything we do. Our school staff understand that traumatized children need safe and predictable environments. Our teachers provide solid routines, loving care and acceptance, respect, and genuine confidence in the success of all students.

But there will always be times when students begin to feel emotions that they just can’t handle. It might be a situation which triggered their past trauma or maybe it’s a buildup of frustration or anger. Whatever the case, students always have a way out. We have a section in our school office dedicated specifically for students who need a break to cool off. They can sit there quietly or they can approach an adult who is ready to provide a listening ear, a calm hug of reassurance, or even a wake up call. Once they begin talking with the adult, students are often able to process through their surface behaviors and get to the root of the problem. Students learn how to connect the dots from how they are feeling to how they are behaving. Then we help them come up with a plan on how to re-enter the classroom and approach their peers and teachers in a respectful manner.

As students begin to feel supported and understood, their academic motivations often begin to change. And when they get serious about learning, our teachers come right alongside them. It is common to see teachers providing after school tutoring, assisting students outside the classroom, and helping students who come in during breaks to earn credit recovery or gain more tutoring.

Our students are resilient. They come from hard places, but they are willing to do hard things to rise above. I hope you have a chance to meet them.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR — Melissa Jackson, Director of Educational Services, is from Jamestown, Ohio and enjoys spending time with her family, photography, and all kinds of chocolate!