Part 1 & Part 2 of Trauma Invested Education series based on the Fostering Resilient Learners institute. My hope is that my learning helps your journey to supporting all students along their educational journey.
Trauma does not discriminate nor does it come with a playbook per student. It is known that the more adverse childhood Experiences (ACEs) a student has the more it will affect them. So how we respond to their needs matters.
Our students watch our every move. What our face looks like when we experience emotions or see something is easy for them to see. Mel Robbins notes it makes 33 milliseconds for people to process facial expressions on others. Think about that for a minute. When we are working with a tough situation, whether it is with a student or not, our face can say it all without us meaning to show it. Flat affect or showing no emotion is something that is vital when those working with students who are escalated or unregulated. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard. I’ve been there. However, what I do notice is that students feed off of us when they are unable to be regulated.
When working with students who are experiencing difficulties, sometimes that pushes our own buttons. It’s not intentional (hopefully) but certain situations can cause us more stress. If you notice that a student’s behavior or actions are getting to you, looking at their the behavior and why it affected you goes a long way. Keith Orchard, Associate of Fostering Resilient Learners & LCSW, suggests that we must be mindful of our own triggers and reflect upon behaviors as time goes on. It promotes reflection for us and mindfulness as someone working with students day in and out.
Working with students who have trauma is a tough job. Something that is vital for their success is creating a therapeutic web around them to support THEM. It may look different based on the student and their needs. However, we must find ways to build students up and support them for who they are. It can be tough but it’s vital to create a support web to assist students every single day. If you’re not sure what to do, I highly recommend you ASK students what they need to support THEM. Giving students encouragement and support is key. It takes time to build up the student and support them but you have an opportunity every day.
So what about the students that fear relationships adults? What then? You still have to create a web of support but it will look different. Read the student’s cues, back off when there’s a need, and get on their level. Support them through parallel play or activities, match their activities (such as coloring or playing with a game or activity) and let them come to you. Their experiences have made them react based on the past. However, YOU will have to find ways to support them. It will definitely take time. Be patient! The relationship will come.
Our work is important for students. They need us daily. It’s why we do what we do. Relationships carry us along the way. They are a priority, they are two way lanes, and how are you building partnerships with both sides. Celina Brennan, Principal at a Trauma Invested school, notes that while we can’t put a value on our students, we can have overreaching values that we, as a staff and collective community, can use to support the community we serve in.
Bottom line, it is vital for us to strength based, focus on relationships, and prioritize learning for all. We are relational with people & are someone’s relationship. Own it daily! Create the web of support, notice when you are being triggered, and make time to be reflective and mindful that our work with students is vital every day.