Many language teachers work with people who have encountered violent conflict. What can educators do to help students who have experienced trauma? Jessica Lahey’s article in the Atlantic looks at adverse childhood experiences in U.S. elementary schools and How Teachers Help Students Who’ve Survived Trauma.
These teachers are not just working with refugees. In fact, Lahey’s article highlights that at least one quarter of U.S. students “have experienced a traumatic event” with higher rates in “impoverished communities.” The effects of trauma often influence behaviour in the classroom, and students can have trouble learning or relating to others in healthy ways.
From a peace education perspective, trauma healing can be supported by everyone in the community. Educators have a unique role, particularly in children’s lives, to contribute to healing rather than further trauma in dealing with unhealthy behaviour in the classroom. Lahey’s five suggestions of focusing on relationships, listening, creating positive experiences of success, nurturing routines, and including “downtime” in class planning are a start. Application of trauma healing strategies and restorative justice approaches could be ways for educators to further support students dealing with post-traumatic stress.