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  • Writer's pictureJenny Ferris

BSEM in the music classroom

My school has recently begun implementing the Berry Street Education Model - something I am very excited about, having seen it in action at previous schools. The Berry Street Education Model is based in trauma-informed teaching practice and aims to educate teachers about how to best support students who may be dealing with trauma in their home lives, as well as embedding social and emotional learning into the curriculum.

I have found it has revolutionised my teaching practice and totally transformed many of my interactions with students. Instead of reacting to "bad behaviour" I am now proactive about staving off issues before they arise and am meeting students from a place of understanding and acceptance, rather than punishment.

The Berry Street Education Model, developed by Tom Brunzell and others at the Berry Street School, has 5 key domains which I will detail below. Now, this is by no means a replacement for actual training. I highly recommend that you and/or your school look into doing some workshops, they are well worth it!


Body looks at the physiological responses to stress and trauma and its effect on the brain. Did you know that when a child is exposed to trauma, parts of their brain become stuck at that phase of neurological development?

This may explain why an eight-year-old is still having temper tantrums like a toddler - their brain has not been able to move past this phase of development.

The body domain also teaches us to recognise the physical symptoms of stress, such as elevated heart rate, breathing, the fight or flight response and the effect this can have on our ability to think rationally.

For both students experiencing heightened emotions, and the teachers trying to deal with them, it is important to both recognise these symptoms and know how to manage them.

Tips such as breathing exercises, a walk around the oval (starting quick-paced and gradually slowing) or mindful colouring can help us to regulate our bodies when dealing with stress.


This is perhaps the domain I got the most out of - as I only see my kids once a week, I have to work much harder than most generalist classroom teachers to build a positive relationship with my students quickly.

The relationship domain details 8 key strategies that you can use to build a positive relationship with your students and I write about them in more detail in next week’s post.


The Stamina domain looks at strategies in the classroom to encourage resilience and academic persistence.

It educates students about growth vs. fixed mindsets and the power of the word "yet" (eg. "I can't do this" vs. "I can't do this...yet").

Growth Mindset

I have a number of Growth Mindset posters displayed around my room and constantly refer to this language when encouraging students to give it a go, no matter the perceived challenge.


The Engagement domain looks at areas such as Flow, Willingness and Positive Emotions that all contribute to a student's enjoyment in the classroom and in turn their overall enthusiasm regarding their education.


This final domain focuses on a students' perception of self, including identifying their values and character strengths to help shape their future pathways.

This can assist with the formation of learning goals (very in vogue at the moment!) and, for older students, with the selection of vocational pathways. One excellent tool is the VIA character strengths survey, which can be taken here .

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