You know the kids: the troublemakers, the ones who can’t sit still, the kids that often make your job more difficult. They may be diagnosed with ADHD, Bipolar or Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Or they may just seem disrespectful and willfully disobedient.
But what if these kids are not actually rude but afraid? What if they are not trying to cause trouble, but are actually just trying to survive? As a trauma-informed therapist, I am constantly learning about the impact trauma has on a person and the consequences it can bring. Experiencing trauma can literally re-wire our brains and transform the way we see ourselves, others, and the world. It can make every interaction and every person seem like a threat. It can make the world a very scary place, and when kids are scared they often behave in destructive and confusing ways.
As you know, ELL classrooms are often made up of students with difficult stories. They can include immigrants who may have traveled dangerous journeys, refugees who may have experienced a natural disaster, war, and/or persecution, and international adoptees who may have very painful histories with their birth families, orphanages, or corrupt foster parents. All of this to say, many ELL students are entering our classrooms with a history of trauma.
So what can you do as an educator? Here’s a great first step: check out this great resource from the National Council for Adoption on Creating Trauma-Informed Classrooms. It has excellent information on the impact of trauma and how to create classrooms where kids feel safe. Bonus: when kids feel safe, they behave better! Let’s work together to create not just trauma-informed classrooms but trauma-informed schools and communities. Let’s help our kids to feel as safe and loved as they actually are.