Hopefully, you have already been provided with the necessary information on any of your students who have experienced trauma.
In order to safeguard vulnerable students and support them in their recovery, it’s best to get an understanding of their triggers and any coping strategies that have been put in
place by school-based, community and therapeutic interventions.
Below is a list of 10 things to remember and 10 strategies that can help you to help your students rebuild their life after experiencing trauma.
- Avoid triggering points of a student’s pain.
- Do not try to change the student.
- Wearing a hoodie is often a coping mechanism to achieve a sense of calm and safety.
- Students are highly sensitive to who you talk to about issues they may be experienced. Remain professional and stay clear from teacher to teacher gossip.
- Students are on guard against any injustice or mistreatment, treat everyone with respect and dignity, maintain boundaries, rewards and consequences and be supportive to all.
- Give parents or guardians compassionate support, regardless of what you’ve read in the student's file.
- Remember the student may not understand that their negative behaviour is due to the trauma they’ve experienced.
- When a student feels safe and secure, they are more able to engage in learning.
- The more positive situations and interactions a student experiences at school the more likely they will be able to regulate their responses.
- Modelling appropriate and balanced ways to respond to stressful situations will help the student in how they can regulate their responses with positive behaviour and communication.
- Be present with a focus on acting kind, supportive and caring, even during stressful lessons.
- Support the student in developing their identity and sense of self.
- Be gentle with your words, even when angry or frustrated.
- Have no expectations.
- Remind students that you are there for them if they need to help with homework or need to talk.
- Allowing students to fiddle with something in class can help reduce stress. Providing them with a doddle pad is also an effective resource.
- Give the student duties and responsibilities, to help them build their trust, sense of self, worthiness, ability to communication and build safe binds with others.
- Adopt a red, yellow and green lighting system in class, whereby all students, (including those on the trauma continuum) can signal when they are highly stressed or having difficulties, that may require help or time out.
- Enable the student to design or arrange items on their desk in your classroom, in a way that makes them feel safe and secure.
- Keep no secrets, if you are concerned a child’s safety or well-being is at risk, inform your schools safeguarding lead and follow up, to ensure measures have been put into place.
Oftentimes the most challenging students are the ones that have 100% punctuality and attendance. Their challenging behaviour may be low level, yet highly distracting. Or we have students who have built a titanium wall around them and will not engage in anything. Then we have students that use humour or defensive language, to protect their inner self in order to feel safe and secure.
Regardless of the behaviour, teaching a class where one or multiple students are affected by trauma is a juggling act and will inevitably change the way you planned to teach. Your role as an educator instantly becomes one much more important than you may ever know.
But becoming a trauma-informed teacher is not only about safeguarding the future of your most vulnerable students, it’s also about safeguarding your teaching career, from overwhelming stress and burn out.
Written by Elaine Thomas, The Mentoring Lab, Founder Ceo
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