Managing the Un-manageable
Often in childhood education, the question rises as to how to appropriately handle bad behavior in the classroom. From physical outbursts to verbal spewing, teachers are constantly faced with managing the un-manageable students. Jane Ellen Stevens, journalist and founder of Aces Too High, recently wrote about a New Approach to student discipline in her article […]
Often in childhood education, the question rises as to how to appropriately handle bad behavior in the classroom. From physical outbursts to verbal spewing, teachers are constantly faced with managing the un-manageable students. Jane Ellen Stevens, journalist and founder of Aces Too High, recently wrote about a New Approach to student discipline in her article “Trauma-Sensitive Schools Are Better Schools”.
“Trauma-sensitive schools. Trauma-informed classrooms. Compassionate schools. Safe and supportive schools. All different names to describe a movement that’s taking shape and gaining momentum across the country. And it all boils down to this: Kids who are experiencing the toxic stress of severe and chronic trauma just can’t learn. It’s physiologically impossible.
These kids express their toxic stress by dropping the F-bomb, skipping school, or being the ‘unmotivated’ child, head down on the desk or staring into space. In other words, they’re having typical stress reactions: fight, flight or freeze.
In trauma-sensitive schools, teachers don’t punish a kid for ‘bad’ behavior — they don’t want to traumatize an already traumatized child. They dig deeper to help a child feel safe so that she or he can move out of stress mode, and learn again.”
Jane pulls specific details from schools in Washington and Massachusetts for support, as they’ve implemented school-wide initiatives to adapt this New Approach. Supporting the approach is Susan Cole, director of the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, a joint project of Harvard Law School and Massachusetts Advocates for Children. She is only one of the many advocates for this New Approach.
“With a school-wide strategy, trauma-sensitive approaches are woven into the school’s daily activities: the classroom, the cafeteria, the halls, buses, the playground. ‘This enables children to feel academically, socially, emotionally and physically safe wherever they go in the school. And when children feel safe, they can calm down and learn,’ says Cole. ‘The district needs to support the individual school to do this work. With the district on board, principals can have the latitude to put this issue on the front burner, where it belongs.’
Many teachers have known for years that trauma interferes with a kid’s ability to learn. But school officials from both states cite two research breakthroughs that provide the evidence and data.
One was the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study). It uncovered a stunning link between childhood trauma and the chronic diseases people develop as adults. This includes heart disease, lung cancer, diabetes and many autoimmune diseases, as well as depression, violence, being a victim of violence, and suicide.
The study’s researchers came up with an ACE score to explain a person’s risk for chronic disease. Think of it as a cholesterol score for childhood toxic stress. You get one point for each type of trauma. The higher your ACE score, the higher your risk of health and social problems.”
To read Jane’s entire article, check out The Huffington Post’s Education section.
Published July 18, 2012