Classrooms are places where stories are shared, and often, often at unexpected times, children can share stories related to the traumas they have experienced in their lives. For this reason, Angela Wiseman, associate professor of literacy at NC State College of Education, says it’s important that educators have the preparation and understanding to engage in trauma-informed teaching.
Trauma can refer to any event that tests a person’s sense of physical, emotional, social or moral safety. Trauma can occur at the family and individual level â such as emotional or physical abuse, family separation due to issues such as homelessness or incarceration, or illness â or at the community and global level â such as disasters resources and poverty or, more recently, issues of racial injustice and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Wiseman, whose research focuses on a trauma-informed approach to family literacy and the preparation of teachers who can implement trauma-informed practices in the classroom, said addressing trauma issues in Students begin by normalizing the different experiences that occur in the world through their lessons and actions.
âSome of the components that are really important when working with teachers are that they need to create safe and welcoming classrooms and that when stories are shared it is important to bear witness. In other words, acknowledge that these stories happened and that this child is having legitimate experiences,â she said. “When teachers take a trauma-informed approach, they really build community and recognize what can happen when difficult experiences and stories are shared, and how students can support each other when difficult stories are told.”
Making classrooms a safe space to share
With mental health issues like anxiety and depression on the rise among children and teens as the pandemic enters its second year, Wiseman said she believes trauma-informed pedagogy is important for everyone. students, especially since teachers don’t know everything the students have been through. at the time, classes were conducted online.
Wiseman noted that the children have experienced even more stress over the past two years. For example, many children have lost family members or caregivers to the pandemic, and normal classroom activities could serve as triggers for students to share these stories. For example, reading a story about family can cause a child to start thinking about a deceased loved one and talking about their loss.
It is important that when these situations arise, teachers acknowledge their students’ feelings and assure them that the classroom is a safe place where they can share their emotions.
“Often when difficult topics come up, it’s natural to want to quickly walk away from that conversation, but it can be very difficult for children. If they share their feelings and come to you for it, and you don’t know not how to recognize it, it can cause them to relive those feelings,â Wiseman said.
Teachers need to be prepared for times when trauma-related stories emerge, but ideally, Wiseman thinks teachers shouldn’t have to deal with trauma issues alone.
Teachers interact with their students on a daily basis and are therefore in a good position to notice when a student’s behavior changes or when they express something that indicates they have experienced trauma. Although teachers are often the first step in acknowledging or detecting a problem, working with social workers and psychologists is key to addressing trauma issues.
âTeachers have a certain body of knowledge and they see the children from the perspective of the classroom, but I hope we will work with social workers, counselors and community organizations, so that we can get support for the children. children who really need it. And right now, there are more and more children who need resources and support in different ways,â Wiseman said.
Wilsman’s own research brings teachers and social workers together through his Support for Trauma-Informed Practice (TIPS) in Schools and Communities project, an interdisciplinary approach to trauma developed in collaboration with Qiana Cryer-Coupet, an associate professor in the School of Social Work at the NC State College of Humanities and Social Sciences. The project linked research with professional development for pre- and in-service teachers and social workers to help them provide trauma-informed support to students while taking into account the contexts in which they work.
Using Picture Books to Address Trauma Issues
Wiseman, whose research also includes analyzing children’s picture books, said that for young children, picture books can be a great tool that teachers can use in the classroom to help normalize a variety of various experiences.
âPicture books can help understand people’s different experiences or validate the experiences they have had. When children see themselves in books they can see that we know there are different experiences, you are welcome here, and your life and experiences are represented here in this classroom and in this space,â said Wiseman.
When selecting picture books for their classrooms, Wiseman recommends teachers focus primarily on recently released selections. She recommends using those published within the past decade, as some, but not all, older books may depict outdated or problematic portrayals of various groups. Additionally, new books will usually focus on more relevant social issues.
âThere are some really good books that are older, but we have to look at our more recent recognitions of different social issues and how they are represented now,â she said. “It’s a challenge to find quality books, so I think the best thing is to really engage with online resources that highlight the experiences of different communities and different populations.”
To find suitable and varied books, Wiseman recommends using the Brown bookcase, which focuses on books by black authors, highlights various children’s literature, publishes book reviews and hosts book conferences with authors throughout the year.
the Youth Literature Assembly (CLA), a nonprofit association of scholars, critics, professors, students, librarians, teachers, and institutions dedicated to the academic study of children’s literature, also offers a variety of resources, including a blog that reviews a variety of books with a particular focus on those that shed light on diverse experiences and social justice topics.
Milo imagines the world depicts the story of a young boy going to visit his father in prison, showing what he notices as he takes the subway there.
“It’s something you might read about in class because it portrays an everyday kid who is very close, but it shows the diversity of his family background,” Wiseman said.
closer is the story of a young boy who is dropped off at his grandfather’s. The duo struggles to relate to each other due to a language barrier and cultural differences, but eventually bond over a shared love of drawing. Although the book does not explicitly address trauma, Wiseman uses it in his family literacy program to help fathers who have been separated from their children understand how to experience feelings of separation and reunite with children in different ways. .
“I actually like open books that don’t deal directly with trauma, but where people can think about how they engage with it in their own way,” she said.
Other resources for trauma-informed teaching
Beyond picture books, Wiseman recommends teachers who want to use a trauma-informed approach to visit the Learning for justice website, The Online Resource, which was launched by the Southern Poverty Law Center, offers lesson plans, articles and resources that can help educators understand how to build community and recognize different ways of thinking and acting. be in class.
To help pre- and in-service teachers develop a foundational understanding of the lasting impact of trauma on children, Wiseman also recommends educators watch Nadine Burke Harris’ TED talk titled âHow Childhood Trauma Affects Lifespan Health.â
“Once you’ve suffered a trauma, the repercussions can last so long, so I think it’s important to recognize that often when something happens to children, it has a lifelong ripple effect. “Wiseman said.