Posted by Haley Hisle
on June 15, 2017 / Posted in Jubilee Academy
By: Kristi Thompson
Children who have experienced trauma at the hands of their caregivers especially need calm and caring teachers, but they are also the ones most likely to mistrust adults and push those teachers away. “The children who need love the most will ask for it in the most unloving ways,” Russel Barkley, educational researcher wrote.
Dr. Ross Greene, author of Lost at School, encourages teachers to shift their mindset to view a student’s behavior as a survival strategy or a skill deficit rather than willful disobedience. Behavioral skills like the ability to problem-solve, self-regulate, listen, and think critically are often delayed in children who have experienced trauma. “Kids do well if they CAN…if they could do well, they would do well. Something must be getting in the way,” writes Greene.
Trauma-informed schools incorporate practices that teach students how to move from their fight-flight-freeze brain to their thinking brain. Explain what this list is and how it is meant to equip – The following strategies may help students manage their overwhelming stress so they can do well academically, socially and behaviorally.
Relationship is the ultimate regulator. A calm adult with a soft voice, clear expectations and an “I believe in you” attitude soothes the child’s stress response. Karyn Purvis demonstrates this in her IDEAL response, available on YouTube. Trauma-informed schools often utilize class meetings to check-in with students and create a safe space.
Movement helps children shift from their emotional reactive brain back to their thinking brain. Stress balls, chewing gum, yoga breaks, and short walks can help a child manage stress overload.
Classroom calming spots and mindfulness activities – breathing, prayer and meditation – also help students regulate stressful emotions.
Restorative rather than punitive discipline. In trauma-informed schools, children from hard places are held to high expectations of behavior, but teachers realize that children need support to achieve that. Suspensions and behavior management charts prove ineffective. Restoring relationships, making amends, practice and proactive planning are the strategies that create lasting change.
Teacher self-care and proactive problem solving. Trauma informed teaching works best when it’s a school-wide approach – everyone from the administration to support staff works together to bring healing and growth.
“It is up to us to find the courage to change our mindsets. We must broaden the traditional “academics only” focus that has dominated our classrooms for far too long. Otherwise, the consequence is clear: We will continue to carry only a hammer and thus see every problem as a nail and continue to fail our children” –Heather Forbes, Help for Billy
Forbes, H. (2012). Help for Billy. Beyond Consequences Institute, LLC.
Greene, R. (2014). Lost at School. Scribner.
Kuypers, L. (2011). Zones of Regulation. Think Social Publishing.
Perry, B. (2007). The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog. Basic Books.
Purvis, K. & Cross, D. (2007). The Connected Child. McGraw-Hill.