How well do we really know our students? Are we aware of family dynamics and personal experiences that can add to or distract from a child’s ability to learn? More importantly, are we able to understand how a child feels based on their perception of the situation? Children that have experienced trauma may exhibit unfavourable behaviours in the classroom. Being trauma informed will provide yet another lens for teachers to look through when assessing the strengths and needs of a child. It may provide some answers to the question “what has happened to the child” rather than asking “what is wrong with the child”.
Helping Traumatized Children is a valuable report that teachers and schools administrators can use to inform their approach to supporting children and families. “This document is the result of an extraordinary collaboration among educators, parents, mental health professionals, community groups, and attorneys determined to help children experiencing the traumatic effects of exposure to family violence succeed in school.”
The excerpts below are taken from, “Helping Traumatized Children Learn Supportive school environments for children traumatized by Family Violence Massachusetts. (Massachusetts Advocates for Children. (2005) pg 21-22. Retrieved from http://opi.mt.gov/pdf/indianed/TeachTraumatizedKids.pdf
“Many of the obstacles traumatized children face in the classroom result from their inability to process information, meaningfully distinguish between threatening and non-threatening situations, form trusting relationships with adults, and modulate their emotions.”
“Learning to read, write, take part in a discussion, and solve mathematical problems requires attention, organization, comprehension, memory, the ability to produce work, engagement in learning, and trust. Another prerequisite for achieving classroom competency is the ability to self-regulate attention, emotions, and behavior.
Not surprisingly, traumatic experiences have the power to undermine the development of linguistic and communicative skills, thwart the establishment of a coherent sense of self, and compromise the ability to attend to classroom tasks and instructions, organize and remember new information, and grasp cause-and-effect relationships—all of which are necessary to process information effectively. Trauma can interfere with the capacity for creative play, which is one of the ways children learn how to cope with the problems of everyday life; and it can adversely affect the ability to have good peer and adult relationships.”
How prepared and educated do you feel to support a student in your classroom that have experienced trauma through family violence?