Midweek Reading: Trauma, Kids, and Schools


We are hard at work on the next installment of our series, Small Stones Interviews. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not still treating ourselves to some reading worth sharing. (With iced coffee. Hiding in the coolest part of the house. If you aren’t doing the same, thank your lucky stars for either air conditioning or geography, and send cooling thoughts to the western half of the country.)

Our next interview will feature a violence-preventionist who works in social-emotional learning–SEL, for those in the know. We’re doing our homework, and we recommend this recent piece from NPR Ed, “When Schools Meet Trauma With Understanding, Not Discipline:”

“Generally there just was really not an understanding of how trauma impacts a child,” says Paulette Carter, president and CEO of the Children’s Bureau of New Orleans, a mental health agency for kids and families.

“Teachers and school staff really look at children through the lens of, ‘What’s wrong with that child?’ Versus, ‘What happened to that child?’ ”

“If I’m walking down the hallway and somebody bumps into me, and I don’t have a significant trauma history, I’m gonna say ‘Oh, sorry, excuse me,’ ” she explains. “Whereas a kid who’s been exposed to trauma on an ongoing basis, if somebody bumps into them that might be a threat.” From there, she says, the survival brain kicks in and reasoning and logic shut down.

Crocker has developed ways to help students who are dealing with those experiences. Two full-time social workers hold one-on-one sessions with students who need someone to talk to. Teachers send disruptive students to a room called the wellness center for a meditative time-out that’s not supposed to be punishment.

If students fight, they first work it out through group discussion. Kids who act up or shut down get extra support, not detention or suspension like they used to. The idea is to tend to life troubles at school, instead of sending kids home.

Go check out the whole thing and report back next week for more on SEL.



Weekend Refresher: Responding to Trauma

This repost from Teaching Tolerance seemed like a timely reminder. Are your students showing bad behavior… or reacting to traumatic events? Here are some techniques for responding to trauma:

Establish social and emotional safety in your classroom.

Strategies • Classroom contracts • Explicit anti-bullying or community-building curricula • Timely interventions in conflicts and hurtful exchanges • Teaching and modeling of empathy and active listening skills

Create a behavior-management plan that focuses on positive reinforcement.

Strategies • Implement student-generated agreements and contracts • Adopt “zero indifference” (NOT zero-tolerance) policies • Seek out training in restorative justice techniques • Explore stress-management strategies to diffuse tense situations and help students process feelings in the moment • Give students opportunities to demonstrate their strengths

Increase your self-awareness and trauma competency.

Strategies • Seek professional development on working with specific identity groups • Share support resources with other educators  • Connect with community organizations • Engage in ongoing self-assessment and reflection on your trauma responsiveness