Haven Academy Finds Success Working With Traumatized Students

In “When Home Is Tough, Making Students Feel Good At School“,  NPR highlights Mott Haven Academy Charter School and the success they have experienced working with traumatized students.


In a classroom in the Bronx borough of New York City on a recent school day, a little boy in a green shirt got very frustrated. He was sitting on the floor with his fellow second-graders as they were going over a math problem with their teacher, when he suddenly turned away from the group and stamped his feet. It seemed like he was mad that she had called on another student. But instead of reprimanding him, the teacher asked him to chime in.

“You agree?” she asked him. “Do you want to take a look at it?”

The boy said yes and continued taking part in the lesson.

Like a lot of his classmates at Mott Haven Academy Charter school, this 7-year-old boy is in foster care. Two-thirds of the school’s 330 or so elementary students are in the child welfare system, meaning they’re in foster care or getting preventive services to keep them at home.

These are kids who have witnessed domestic violence or experienced abuse. Principal Jessica Nauiokas says her teachers know the cases and receive training in trauma to watch for any signs of behavioral or psychological problems.

“We try to respond in a way that keeps the kids engaged and keeps them in the classroom,” she explains. “Where in other schools, if a student got up and walked away from the circle, pouted or stamped their feet and kind of acted defiant, those teachers might escalate that” and send the child to the principal’s office or to detention.

Read the full article and listen to the NPR broadcast here.


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