My Approach

How to address student trauma effectively

Hidden trauma causes depression, lack of motivation, ADHD symptoms, behavior outbursts, academic overwhelm, and a sense of helplessness.

Hidden trauma changes students’ brains and physical reactions and we have to adapt curriculum, teaching methods, and school policies to work with those changes instead of against them.

I can teach your school how to detect Hidden Student Trauma, address it effectively, and adapt curriculum and school practices to account for trauma-induced changes in students’ brains and physiology.

Here are the 5 principles of my approach:

1. The most important factor in a student’s success is how the adult in the room makes the student feel.

Maya Angelou — “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Trauma is a connection injury. It can’t be healed by one individual trying to heal themselves.

For children and teenagers, one truly caring adult can drastically change a student’s physiology both in the present moment and for the rest of their lives. This is accomplished by the adult’s reaction and interactions with the child, not by the adult teaching the child how to react.

2. Most student trauma is hidden and we can’t heal what we can’t reveal.

70+% of all students have experienced some form of complex childhood trauma (divorce, a parent’s depression, etc).

The more frequent and intense the trauma, the more that trauma changes student’s physiological reactions and their brain functions. Identifying which students have trauma and then supporting those students is key to better behaviors and academic motivation.

Asking for help is hard. Trauma is linked to shame. Children and teenagers don’t have the life experience to know that hard things happening to them or their families are not their fault. So students say nothing.

The teacher then becomes the EMT, who uses Trauma-Embracing strategies and curriculum prompts to uncover hidden student trauma, respond immediately, then refer that student to counseling in a way that ensures they get help.

3. Trauma changes the way students’ brains function, so we have to start teaching the way traumatized brains learn.

Trauma affects the areas of the brain related to reading and comprehension. It also affects students’ number sense and reasoning capabilities. In the larger picture, trauma hijacks students’ organizational brain centers and overwhelms the strategizing, organizational, and plan-of-attack centers. Childhood trauma also drastically undermines a child’s sense that they are capable human beings. Bootstraps grit has no place here.

What this means for teaching is that if materials are presented in the wrong way, students will feel too overwhelmed to even try. We need to start teaching in the way that traumatized brains learn.

I teach your staff applicable strategies across all content areas that take students from being unable or unwilling to start an assignment to being in the “I can” or “I can ask for help” mindset. All the empathy in the world doesn’t help a student if they resign themselves to failure because assignments are structured in a way that their brains can’t access.

4. Behaviors are addressed at the root.

Too often, Trauma-Informed PDs leave off at informing you and your staff that student trauma will make students act out so we should….what?

What is the appropriate response to poor student behaviors when you know that student has trauma in their past or in their lives currently? Too often, this unanswered question results in too-lenient behavior policies rather than a Trauma-Embracing, systematic, practical approach that supports the student, the teacher, and the administrator.

You don’t want students being sent out of class regularly and you don’t have time to hang out with students who are frequent fliers in the office.

5. Creating student-teacher relationships and using the correct prompts uncovers hidden student trauma every time.

A Trauma-Embracing approach teaches everyone how to systematically and easily find connections and what actions to take once those connections are made.

As it turns out, teaching this way is far more enjoyable than the old way that teachers have been taught to conduct our classrooms. This is the way your own younger self wishes they were taught which is why this method resonates with teachers and all school staff.

Want to learn about services I have that can help your school use these 5 principals?

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