Adverse childhood experiences manifest themselves in our classroom. It is an undeniable reality of our world. School must be a safe space for all children, but especially those whose home is unsafe or unhealthy, as teachers, we have a pivotal role to play in creating that safe space. There are three core points to creating a trauma-sensitive classroom outlined in Kristin Souers and Pete Hall’s book on fostering resilient learners: Self Awareness, Relationships, and Belief.
Dr. Souers uses an analogy in the book about wearing cement shoes. Your cement shoes are what keep you from being knocked over by the crashing waves that you encounter inside of the classroom. One way to know what your cement shoes are is by creating a mission statement. This statement should include those things that make you a teacher- your drive, your motives, your passions, and your strengths. In addition to these tools, the video above outlines the importance of teachers practicing self-care.
Building relationships isn’t easy, and it can be especially difficult for a student who has ACEs. One way to help shape these relationships is by modeling honesty and vulnerability with students. When students see that we trust them with our vulnerabilities they can learn to do the same with us. Sometimes students, or ourselves, can do things that damage our relationships. When this happens it’s important to work towards rebuilding the relationship
What do we know to be true about our students? Some students may feel defined by their trauma, however, that should not define them in our eyes. We must believe that all our students are capable of achieving our high expectations. But those expectations should be based on the strengths of the students and push our students to their fullest potential.