Educators play a critical role in shaping the learning and development of their students. This is why we must make it a priority to create a safe classroom environment for our students. One that fosters creativity, community, and learning. Unfortunately, many students come to school with experiences of trauma that can impact their ability to learn and engage in the classroom. Creating a trauma-sensitive learning environment is essential for teachers who want to support their students’ social emotional well-being and academic success. If we as educators make the effort to understand the impact of trauma on our students’ brains, emotions, and behavior, then we should be able to implement teaching strategies such as building relationships, creating a positive classroom culture, developing coping skills that support and foster resilience and academic achievement for all of our students. Our goal should be to do what we can in hopes of making a significant impact on the lives of our students both inside and outside of the classroom.
Upstairs vs. Downstairs
Operating in the Upstairs Brain
- The upstairs brain, also called our cortex, is our thinking and receptive brain.
- This is where logic, reasoning, and self-control come from.
- Provides a fuller perspective of the world and enables us to emotionally regulate and to have control over our body.
- When this part of the brain is working well, students are able to utilize self-understanding, empathy and morality, as well as consider consequences and think before we act.
Operating in the Downstairs Brain
- The downstairs brain, also called the amygdala, is our reactive and defensive brain.
- This is where fight, flight, or freeze responses come from.
- When the downstairs brain is activated, the upstairs brain is shut off and the student goes into survival mode.
- Students aren’t able to learn properly when their operating in the downstairs brain.
How Teachers can Foster Resilience?
- Understanding the impact of trauma on our students brains, emotions, and behaviors.
- Building strong relationships with students by being present, empathetic, and authentic, and by creating opportunities for students to connect with each other.
- Creating a positive classroom culture where students feel safe, respected, and valued. This can be done by establishing clear expectations and routines, and providing opportunities for students to contribute and participate.
- Using positive and affirming language in addition to feedback that is specific constructive, and focused on effort and progress rather than just achievement.
- Teaching coping skills such as mindfulness, self-regulation, and problem-solving that aids in stress management and builds resilience.