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As schools reopen, trauma-informed teaching might be more important than ever

mashable.com
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Building relationships can help kids thrive in tough times.
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Over the course of the 2018-19 school year, seven parents of students at McGee's Crossroads Elementary School, which straddles farms and suburbs near Raleigh, N.C., died. Students were struggling with the trauma of losing a parent, in several cases violently. Their classmates didn't always know how to support them, and in some cases taunted them over these experiences. The principal overheard one say, "I'm glad your dad died."

During the next school year, the school took a new approach to help kids who might be acting out because of stress and trauma in their own lives. Armed with so-called trauma-informed techniques, school staff focused more on building relationships with students and understanding why they misbehaved. No longer did teachers ask, "What is wrong with you?" when kids acted out, but "What happened to you?" to determine what to do next. Suspensions dropped 52%.

"Taking the few minutes to build a relationship with the kids and helping them feel like they belong is actually helping reduce discipline issues," school counselor Carmen White said. "It's helping the students be more successful academically."

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, research indicated that as many as 50% of children had experienced some form of trauma or victimization, including sexual assault, abuse, the death of a loved one, natural disasters, a car accident or community violence. These experiences can tax the brain and make it harder for kids to learn and behave well. Now, 40,000 U.S. children have lost a parent to COVID-19, food and housing insecurity remains a concern and more kids are suffering from higher rates of anxiety and depression .

As schools reopen amid ongoing uncertainty, interest in trauma-informed teaching practices is growing among educators. The American Rescue Plan, the…
Alex Hazlett
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