Cultivating Compassionate School Communities that Respond to Trauma Effectively

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

By Dana Asby, CEI Director of Innovation & Research Support, New England MHTTC Education Coordinator


Teachers and administrators come to schools with various educational backgrounds and life experiences that influence their abilities to support students’ academic and emotional well-being effectively. Peer learning can be a powerful way for school staff to grow from hearing each other’s successes and challenges. Offering these opportunities regularly, and pairing them with intentional professional development training, can provide school staff with a cohesive set of strategies, tools, and practices to create a school community that works together to reduce and respond compassionately to trauma. New England Mental Health Technology Transfer Center’s (MHTTC) Childhood-Trauma Learning Collaborative (C-TLC) developed a free, online training course to guide state educational agencies, school districts, and schools through this complex process.


Turning Lessons from the Childhood-Trauma Learning Collaborative into Universal Instruction

The C-TLC has been delivering instruction on evidence-based practices to reduce and compassionately address childhood trauma in schools to administrators, mental health professionals, and educators working in New England schools for the past three years. We took the key lessons we taught our C-TLC Fellows over these three years and developed a course that allows any school professional to gain the tools they need to implement transformational change in their learning space.


We have been working closely since 2019 with 26 C-TLC Fellows who took school culture assessments, developed action plans, implemented compassionate school practices, developed or refined comprehensive school mental health systems, and engaged families and community partners in this work. During peer learning sessions, these inspiring leaders told us how they implemented our Compassionate School Mental Health Model in districts and schools. They also told us how to refine it to meet the needs of the youth-serving systems that must work together to genuinely change the way we respond to and work toward preventing childhood trauma. We have embedded these lessons from the real world into our free, self-guided online course.


About the Cultivating Compassionate School Communities that Respond to Trauma Effectively Course

The course we developed for the HealtheKnowledge platform, Cultivating Compassionate School Communities that Respond to Trauma Effectively, was designed to: educate school professionals about the impact of trauma on the body, brain, social and emotional skills, and behaviors of both students and staff; introduce compassionate school responses to mental health challenges; and guide schools and districts through the process of transformational change to become a trauma-skilled school.


Addressing and reducing childhood trauma is not a simple feat. Thus, engagement with this course requires 12 hours of online class time, with room for reflection and implementation of practices between sessions. Educators can earn 12 continuing education units (CEUs) for completing the entire course. Included in the course is an action plan that allows individuals and school teams to map out the specific steps they plan to take to move closer to delivering instruction and mental health supports that meet the needs of all students, but especially those that have experienced trauma.


We designed this course to be beneficial to anyone who chooses to take it. However, it is most impactful when a leader at the school or district level decides to engage all staff or a group of staff members in a collaborative learning opportunity. We are designing an implementation guide to help leaders plan for a school year, semester, or summer intensive professional development training for their schools or districts. To inform this guide, we are inviting any interested schools or districts to engage in monthly intensive technical assistance meetings around the course from October 2021-May 2022. To learn more about the course and this technical assistance opportunity, join us for our information session about the course on October 14th at 10 a.m.


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