The teachers tell me I’m smart. They say I’m just not trying.
I find myself staring out the window during class. Next thing I know two weeks have passed and I have failed yet another algebra or biology test.
I really try to listen to what the teacher is saying. Sometimes I can see her mouth moving but can’t hear a thing.
They say I have potential but that I am slipping out of reach. I wish I could focus and soak in the material, but I just can’t.
I wish they understood how hard it is.
The teacher told me my six year old, Tyrone, is the terror of his first grade class.
She said he pinches, hits, and refuses to obey her.
I recently had to attend a suspension hearing where he was put out of school for 3 days.
At the shelter and at church, Tyrone is a different child. He clings to his sister and me.
He often wakes up with nightmares and a bed that is wet.
Tyrone fled with me and his sister from a father who abused us.
Our shelter advocate is coming with me to the next school meeting. She says the school can help him learn if they focus on helping him feel safe. I hope the school will listen to us.
Every year, there are a few students in my 6th grade class I just can’t reach no matter what I try.
Sometimes, a student’s disruptive behavior keeps him sitting in the principal’s office more than at his desk.
Other times, a student can’t focus on one thing for more than 30 seconds. The whole year might go by without one homework assignment turned in.
After learning about trauma’s impact at school, these behaviors began to make sense to me.
Now I focus on making routines predictable and try to be more conscious of the tone of voice I use with all my students.
But I’m only one teacher in my students’ day. I know that for students to truly feel safe, trauma sensitive approaches must be infused throughout the entire building.
How do I get this started at my school? I can see that it will take all of us—including our principal.
We had dedicated teachers at our school, but we couldn’t make gains in academic achievement.
Our teachers became masters at collecting and analyzing data and planning individualized interventions to address the needs of every child.
We did everything we could think of to improve academic progress, but our scores were the lowest in our district.
We knew we needed to go deeper—our teachers were very good at teaching, but there was something more we needed to do.
We are an urban school and our students deal with a great deal of adversity—from gun shots in the neighborhood to home invasions to homelessness and foster care.
We began to learn about the impacts of trauma and the importance of creating a whole-school environment where every child feels safe.
That was the missing piece. The staff became energized and we began to take action toward creating a trauma sensitive school. By the end of the year, those scores started to creep up. We had begun to turn a corner.