Coping With Trauma in the Classroom

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From the Stamford Advocate: Increasing numbers of students have been affected by trauma; almost half of American adolescents have experienced an adverse childhood event. It is important for schools to create conditions that support the growth and success of children who have experienced trauma.

“Research has shown that intervention, particularly in the early years, can mitigate the effects of this toxic stress. A calm and nurturing environment and close relationships with caring adults are critical to this process. Helping students avoid or manage common triggers such as sudden change, loneliness, rejection and sensory overload is also vital.

Many of the policies foisted upon schools by education reformers are damaging to the well-being of these vulnerable students. Forcing young children to attempt age-inappropriate tasks, such as reading too early, increases stress, communicates to them that they are failures and diminishes their trust in the adults, teachers, to whom they would otherwise turn for support. Isolating children, as is done with the increasing reliance on computers rather than teachers, can exacerbate the effects of ACEs. Furthermore, as one high school principal who has worked for years with trauma-informed education practices noted, high-stakes testing with consequences for both students and teachers “goes against everything research is telling us about how to help these kids”— creating hostile environments with stressed teachers and students. Many of the practices by which reformers measure ‘success’ in fact undermine the conditions that would enable children to develop successfully.”

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