Trauma in the Classroom

: a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. Let’s talk about T R A U M A. Trauma in the classroom is something that we don’t want to talk about. We aren’t guidance counselors, right? WRONG. I firmly believe for students with traumatic experiences to be successful, we had to meet them where they are. How do we deal with trauma in the classroom?

This post is going to be extremely personal, real and raw. A long, long time ago, I shared with you all a little bit about a fatal car accident I was in I was a teenage girl. My parents divorced before I started school. Furthermore, I am a walking, living, breathing example of a student who had several traumatic experiences. A few teachers saw this in me, they knew I had potential, just needed to be loved and taught differently. This is the reason my life has been spent working with students who struggle because I was the student who struggled.

Students Who Experience Trauma

Sometimes, I think so many of our students have experiences that we are unable to recognize as traumatic. Divorce, peer pressure, accidents, death, witnesses of drug abuse, and so much more are just a few of the ways students experience trauma. For me, I was healing from wondering if I caused the death of someone I loved, my face being completely messed up (in my eyes) and watching my father sick with cancer. Ultimately, my family was fighting. My heart was broken, yet I got up and went to school trying to learn a new skill. Due to this, my head wasn’t at school. Short term memory loss had affected my learning and few teachers saw that.

Then, one teacher did. All this time and I don’t think she even knows to this day the impact she had on me. Ms. Stacy was her name and she was my algebra teacher. Of course, I was struggling so bad. She worked with me and didn’t give up on me.

How We Help Students With Trauma

There’s no one answer to this. The biggest tool I have taken into my classroom is just the ability to see their trauma. See their pain and suffering and to listen to them. Students might need a different presentation of the material or extra resources. I have found this website to be extremely helpful. I’ve personally seemed an overwhelming response to students with trauma when I simply focus on relationships. Newsflash, I know this is not a revolutionary idea but it is KEY. We see so often teachers missing the mark on this and I understand the pressures that we face. Teaching isn’t for the weak minded. Create an environment that makes students feel safe and that they can trust you.

Websites to help with Trauma in the Classroom

Modern Classrooms Project is a site with resources and even a free course. This is helpful when trying to meet the needs of your students with trauma.

Edutopia has a great post with tips and ideas for helping students who experience trauma.

WeAreTeachers put together a list of things educators should know about trauma.

This post has five ways to help students who experience trauma.

My summary for trauma in the classroom is this:

Teachers: Sometimes we need to pause.
Sometimes we need to pray.
Sometimes we need to listen.

Pick your battles with students who have experienced trauma. So they didn’t plug in their computer last night, let them charge it in your classroom. Next, find an intervention schedule that works for them. Lastly, don’t give up on them. If you don’t help them, who will? Be persistent and keep showing up for your kids. They need you now more than ever. Find a way that might be outside of the box to help your student. Ask a counselor or administrator or someone to come and help you. Be an advocate for your student.