Sign up for our newsletter

Share This Story

News and Opinion Jul 7, 2016

Teaching Traumatized Kids

teaching traumatized studentsIn their article, Teaching Traumatized Kids, James Redford and Karen Pritzker highlight the need to adopt trauma-informed practices in school.

Science tells us that students regularly impacted by trauma, such as exposure to violence, loss of a loved one or homelessness, overwhelms their ability to cope, making concentration and learning more difficult. Traditional learning environments aren’t always designed to address the impact of stress on learning.

Redford and Pritzker explored how trauma-informed education practices could promote a safe learning environment in their documentary, Paper Tigers. The film followed students and educators at Lincoln Alternative High School in Walla Walla, Washington. By addressing the root causes of outbursts and pushing trust and healthy relationships over discipline, the school saw results. “In the years immediately following Lincoln’s adoption of trauma-informed practices, the school saw a fivefold increase in graduation rates, a threefold increase in students headed to college, 75 percent fewer fights, and 90 percent fewer suspensions.”

The article also highlights Dr. Pamela Cantor and Turnaround for Children as an example of how trauma-informed practices can be used in an urban environment. Just as the staff discovered at Lincoln, Cantor echoed the need for deescalation and building trusting relationships. “’Things like language [and] tone of voice can really trigger or re-trigger some kids, especially kids who have known trauma,’ said Cantor. Turnaround provides one-on-one help to teachers struggling to make the shift. Nonetheless, “making those changes can be very hard for teachers, some of whom have been exposed to trauma themselves,” noted Cantor.”

Read Redford and Pritzker’s article in The Atlantic.