Johnson City Press: Johnson City Schools gives community a look at school technology, trauma informed care and more
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Johnson City Schools gives community a look at school technology, trauma informed care and more

Brandon Paykamian • Feb 1, 2019 at 8:12 PM

Johnson City Schools hosted its annual “A Look Into Our Schools” event Friday morning at the Johnson City Schools Central Office to give teachers, parents and members of the community a look at new developments across the district.

Topics included trauma-informed care at Liberty Bell Middle School, multi-media enrichment at Lake Ridge Elementary School and the ways in which schools throughout the district are using new classroom technologies.

“This is a wonderful way to show what’s going on out there,” Director of Accountability and School Improvement Robbie Anderson said of the event.

“I think it’s a testament to our teachers’ dedication and ingenuity that, every year, they say, ‘We can get a better program than we had last year.’”

One of the most notable developments continuing within the school system is the trauma-informed approach to student-staff interactions and discipline, according to Liberty Bell Assistant Principal Jennifer Moore, who said this new approach is still in its formative stages at Liberty Bell.

“In theory, we can retrain teachers,” she said. “The trauma-informed approach will be instrumental to the development of our school-wide discipline plan, which is something we are working on as a group this year at Liberty Bell.”

Moore said old, punitive approaches to student discipline are not supported by research, and administrators and teachers need to re-think how to deal with student misbehavior and performance.

“In implementing a trauma-informed model, some of the goals that we as a school are really working hard on is, first of all, shifting the mindset and looking at our traditional ways of doing things since way back when, and (asking) how that is working for us now,” she said. “If I am being honest, it’s not working too well. We’ve got to shift gears.”

She said educators need to educate themselves on adverse childhood experiences to better interact with their student bodies, adding that childhood trauma needs to be understood as something that can manifest in illnesses and issues in adulthood.

“Many have been impacted by trauma they’ve experienced over years and years. Toxic environments, toxic stress — they’re living in it every day — they’re essentially in ‘survival mode,’” she said. “That is how they enter our classrooms every day.

“There’s a direct link between childhood trauma and illnesses, so it’s not just a matter of what’s happening right now, but moving forward, how is this going to impact them as young adults into adulthood?”

In addition to discussing trauma-informed education at Liberty Bell, Jenny Reed of Cherokee Elementary School discussed new ways of learning in the classroom using virtual reality consoles like Nearpod, which she said students have used to “explore” places like Antarctica.

Reed said students “loved it.”

“It really makes our teaching transformational when kids can have an experience that they would never get,” she said.

Getting students involved with technology in schools has helped Science Hill implement new technologies into their classrooms, too, according to Principal Todd Barnett.

He said Science Hill’s student-led Topper Tech Team was instrumental in deploying about 2,300 Chromebooks to students and staff earlier this school year. Since then, they have used their tech know-how to troubleshoot problems with the Chromebooks and other classroom technologies.

“Earlier this year, we did a Chromebook deployment where we distributed about 2,300 Chromebooks to our staff and students across Science Hill High School,” he said. “Since that time, they stay busy on a daily basis just managing and troubleshooting all that can happen when you have 2,200 to 2,300 Chromebooks deployed across four grades.”

For more information on new programs in Johnson City Schools, or to take a look at Friday’s event via video, Anderson said to visit www.jcschools.org.

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