Leadership Sets the Tone in a Crisis

Marleen Wong (bio) discusses how a school culture affects how teachers and students respond to a crisis.

The culture at a school very much depends on who the principal is. I think it's like a family.

If the mother and the father or one of the parents, if it's a single parent family, if they think that it's important to talk about feelings and to talk about how people are doing. And there is an expectation that when we work or as we live our lives with important people, that we're going to have problems and that it's important to talk about those problems, then people do!

But if the head of the family says feelings are not important, you have a job to do — do your job and just keep moving, then people are going to be very reluctant to talk about a problem that they're having, whether it's with — in a school with a child — maybe with a parent.

And I think you can also see that there are differences, in general, depending upon whether or not it's an elementary school, where there tends to be more of an environment where, of course you talk more about it with the child, with a parent, with other teachers.

It becomes different in middle school where I think people are just trying to keep control over these young, energetic, spontaneous, impulsive children — really children. And then in high school where there sometimes can be what I would call a kind of John Wayne, Jane Wayne — deal with it because you're in high school and that's how it is. Make it work!

And so when a crisis event occurs there are those same — that's kind of the foundation — the environment in which teachers attempt to deal with the impact of trauma, not only on the children but on themselves.

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Excerpted from an interview at CBTIS Summit 2013 in Santa Monica, CA.


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