By Kayla Morse’s estimate, half of her
students at Oliver Wendell Holmes
Elementary in Boston have experienced
trauma. The inclusion teacher says that
many of her students’ families have self-reported cases of abuse, domestic violence, homelessness, and drug addiction.
In their first decade of life, some of
her students have witnessed acts of
extreme violence or had family members
imprisoned. Still, when they arrive at
school each morning, they’re expected
Moved by her students’ plight, Morse
became interested not only in identifying best practices for trauma-sensitive
schools, but also in delivering trauma-sensitive instruction, particularly in
math. “It’s not just social-emotional
learning. It’s how you deliver academic
content through a social-emotional
lens,” she said.
Morse realized that increasing her own knowledge would
be key, so she took classes on neurological research related
to trauma. Then, in February 2016, she became a Zeroing in
on Math Fellow with EdVestors, an organization that seeks
to accelerate improvement in Boston’s schools. During the
yearlong fellowship, Morse and like-minded educators
learned from experts and worked to address challenges in
math achievement. Specifically, Morse and three other educators focused on how teachers can establish a “culture of
math” that engages all learners.
Later that year, Morse joined Educators for Excellence,
The team’s suggestions for the state
include establishing a minimum school
counselor-to-student ratio of 1:250 and
a school psychologist-to-student ratio
of 1:700, as well as creating a school
funding structure that is responsive to
the growing costs of educating
vulnerable student populations.
With five years of teaching expe-
rience, Morse is still considered an
early-career educator, but that hasn’t
stopped her from meeting with state
representatives to talk about education and social justice or
sharing her work in town-hall settings with district officials,
including Boston’s superintendent.
“Transformation can happen in the classroom, but it can
also happen on a broader scale with advocacy,” she said.
“What keeps you up at night? What perplexes you or gets
you stuck? Listen to that and follow it.” ;L
Kim Greene is senior associate editor of Educational
Leadership. Follow her on Twitter.
Resources for Educator Advocacy
; Watch ASCD’s ESSA webinar series to learn about
testing, accountability, professional development, and
school improvement under the new law.
; Find out more about the U.S. Department of
Education’s School Ambassador Fellowship program.
; Connect with the Center for Teaching Quality’s
“Collaboratory,” a virtual global community that helps
teachers find solutions to challenges in education.
; Follow Education Week’s “Politics K– 12 blog”
for the latest developments in federal education policy.
; Submit a project to Teach to Lead to bring about
change in your school or for the teaching profession.
; Join the #EdAdvBecause Twitter chat, co-moderated
by Meghan Everette, on the third Tuesday of every month
at 8 p.m. EST.
; Take part in “The Cage-Busting Teacher” online
course, created by Frederick M. Hess at the American
Enterprise Institute, to learn how to become a change
; Consult the National Education Association’s
Legislative Action Center for information about bills
and other key issues.