Equity and Access Newsletter
Elementary Edition September 2018
See The Need Behind The Behavior
The picture of the shark and goldfish best describes children that have experienced trauma. They present with adverse behaviors that look like the shark, but if we look below the surface, we will see that they are scared goldfish trying to have a need met. When you observe that a student might be having a difficult time, ask yourself, “What’s happening here?” rather than “What’s wrong with this child?”
The student might:
- Get a “deer-in-the-headlights” look
- Look angry
- Breathe more rapidly
- Become fidgety and squirmy
- Burst into tears or look like they are about ready to cry
When this occurs, you are not going to be able to talk and correct the child. You need to provide a safe space and help them regulate. You might have to get down to eye level and say, “You are safe.” and then step away for a while.
How do I see the goldfish? According to Traumatic Experience and the Brain, A Handbook for Understanding and Treating Those Traumatized as Children we need to:
- Consider all extreme behavior within the context of survival to understand why the student is repeating the negative response.
- Positive repetition is essential because each positive experience has an impact on the brains growth.
- Understanding that traumatized children focus on the negative and expect the worst, this knowledge will help you deal with each situation.
- The most damaging form of trauma is childhood neglect because it threatens the child ’s basic needs: causing the child to spend all their time thinking about survival.
- A child who has suffered trauma through abuse does not focus on learning but survival. They need extra attention due to the damage they have endured.
- Traumatized children will often score lower on IQ tests than their actual ability. Retest when their environment is helping them heal and watch the scores go up.
- The goal in healing trauma is to help students learn skills to reduce agitation. Repeating the skills they have learned is a beneficial process for healing the traumatized student.
- Incorporate play for traumatized children. The use of play is incredibly therapeutic to the brain and the emotions. Most importantly do not give up hope! The human brain is the greatest wonder of creation and has the capability of healing in remarkable ways.
Zack, et al. “The Trauma Informed Teacher – Silent Front Line.” Ransom for Israel, 31 July 2018, www.ransomforisrael.com/the-trauma-informed-teacher-silent-front-line/.
Did You Know?
Did you know that students of trauma can experience triggers/or reminders of the trauma? These reminders can prompt a traumatic stress reaction. However, when students and teachers are aware of the triggers they can deal with them in a more informed manner.
Some triggers include:
● Yelling, arguments, or fighting
● People who look similar to an individual involved with trauma
● Time of year such as an anniversary of a loss, holiday, birthday etc.
● Smells reminding of someone or something related to a trauma
● Music and sounds that were connected with a traumatic experience
● Physical touch
What's In Your Tool Box?
Six keys to Connecting with the Disconnected Student
Teaching a child who has disconnected from learning can be very challenging. Students who are acting out, who close us out and push us away are the ones that need our help the most. How do we reach these students? We must always remember our Why and stay the course through the good and bad times. The fact is that we cannot teach a child if we are not able to connect with them. Therefore, we need to create an atmosphere of safety and concern. As schools, educators and a society we recognize the link between a positive school environment and good mental health; which has a positive impact on the outcome of our students. Dr. Ross W. Greene, a Clinical Child Psychologist, recommends six keys to connecting with disconnected students. These keys are designed to create connections, memories, moments, and positive school experiences.
Be Interested. Make time to listen. Take a moment to listen, when you take time to hear it shows concern. Once a student sees your concern it builds trust. When you have their trust students will let you into their world.
Start With Strengths. Theirs and yours. Look for both the character strengths and the strengths of skill and then tap into these with our students. The best way to connect with a child is through his/her strengths when we know the students’ strengths; we can tap into this and even place them in leadership roles to help bring out the best. Not only do we need to look for the strengths in our students but we also need to use the strengths of ourselves. There are few stronger connections you will make with kids than when you and the students are engaged in activities in an area of strength.
Celebrate and Build on Success. Many of our students who lack connection have gone through their school life on a “losing streak.” The thing about a losing streak is that it only takes one “win” to snap it. Acknowledge your student's success with positive feedback; a pat on the back, a fist bump or just a message saying thank you I appreciate the effort.
Be Interesting. Be relevant. Be engaging. Students find it is difficult to learn when they can't relate to the purpose. Telling kids they will “need this in the ‘real world'” doesn’t work. It has to relevant to right now and connected to their lives.
Create a Sense of Belonging. Include. Value. Belonging to and being part of a community is a need for ALL of us. Do all our kids feel they belong? Students need to feel accepted for who they are (regardless of ability, gender, sexual orientation, color, race, religion, income level, etc.). Inclusion is for all.
Lead with the heart. Teach with an ethic of care. Students may not always be listening, but they are always watching. How we teach becomes what we teach – we are always modeling what we believe through our words and actions, “Every Child Needs a Champion.” Why not you?
Wejr, C. (n.d.). Behavior. Retrieved from http://chriswejr.com/tag/behavior/
Book Of The Month
Grace loves all kind of stories, whether they were from movies, the kind her grandmother would tell or from a book. One day her teacher asked if anyone wanted to play the lead in Peter Pan. Grace excitedly raised her hand but Raj tells her that she is not a boy and Natalie tells her that she can’t because she is Black. Grace’s Nana sets things straight by informing Grace that she can be anything she sets her mind to be. Grace auditions for the part and she wins hands down. Proving that Grace is truly amazing!
Amazing Grace is Available in Springfield Public Schools Libraries.