Every teacher wants to influence impact the lives of his students positively. For traumatic students, the teacher plays an even more important role. The introduction of positive psychology into the classroom has huge potential to change the trajectories of the lives of many of these young people by moving beyond repair to also inspire growth.
Data suggest that each class has at least one student is affected by the trauma. According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, the US Nearly 40% of the students have been exposed to some kind of traumatic stress in their lives due to sexual harassment, physical assault and the three most prevalent in view of domestic violence.
Known as complex trauma, these types of stressors have the added wound of being perpetrated by a person with whom the child or teen has an ongoing relationship. Many people who are supposed to support and protect are those who do wounds and misbehavior.
For some young people, the school is the only place in their life where they know they are safe and can build trustworthy, lasting relationships. Therefore, it is a brutal irony that many students who are affected by the trauma also have difficulty engaging in school.
They can take part in the school with the best intentions, while making friends, feeling connected to their teachers and hoping to succeed in day-to-day work. Yet they can humiliate themselves, demand, and disable-unable to learn and confuse why they can’t make relationships and relationships with others.
The latest scientific findings from the traumatology, neuroscience and positive education sector tell us how to best help the affected students with trauma? Below, we highlight some new practices that teachers not only help in fixing the students but also help them grow.
Healing and Repair
The new field of “trauma-informed learning” has made great strides in helping teachers to better understand the developmental, emotional, and social challenges that students who are impacted by trauma face at school.
For example, teachers can directly teach students about their body’s own stress activation response and help them find techniques to regulate their heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure.
Teaching through rhythm is now an accepted classroom technique that assists trauma-affected students to regulate their nervous system through rhythmic movement. For example: learning about math to the beat of a drum, reading an English text while riding an exercise bike, or having a disciplinary conversation while walking around the schoolyard together.
The feeling of calmer in the classroom has an impact on helping students become well with others, thinking more clearly, and staying on the job. These approaches encourage students’ stamina and perseverance, which allows them to deal with frustration better, who benefit in their ability to take classes in their social behavior and their educational challenges. This is actually an optimistic approach.
Growth and Strength
Trauma-informed education has helped teachers to evolve from the question of “What is wrong with this student?” to “What has this student been through?” In the field of positive psychology, we add a further question: “What does this student need to reach their potential?” This allows teachers to extend the focus from what is wrong, to what is needed, to what is possible.
Creating mental health and academic abilities of traumatic students is essential for the repair of psychological disorders and developmental delays-this requires double spells of treatment and development. “Of repairing and rising up.”
Research done by Corey Keys shows the treatment and development can be processed simultaneously. We don’t always need to wait until something is fixed before we work on building our strengths.
Actually, increasing the psychological strength of a student affected by a trauma can be a key part of fixing their psychological struggles.
Working with students who are affected by trauma requires schools to assist in providing individual counseling services, safety and crisis planning, behavior plans, self-care plans to address triggers, and case management.
Most of these services are not provided by the classroom teacher, yet the teacher is the person who spends the most time with trauma-affected students.
Here are five teaching techniques that teachers can use in their class, knowing that these approaches also assist their mainstream students.
- Positive relationships.
- Trauma-affected students have more relationship challenges to navigate than most. These students can be dealing with harmful relationships at home and then come to school to manage relationships not only with their teachers but also with social workers, police officers, and clinicians—all while living out their daily lives.
- Positive physical space.
- The physical layout and look of your classroom can be used to build positive emotions.
- Putting up positive visuals and quotes can inspire creative thinking and teamwork in your students.
- Increased natural light or soft lighting can enhance an open, warm, and relaxing environment.
- Positive priming.
- Following the research of Barbara Frederickson, you can use simple priming techniques to foster positive emotions such as contentment, pride, awe, and wonder in class.
- Using character strengths.
- Teaching strengths in schools have been shown to increase achievement and well-being.
- All students, especially trauma-affected students, need opportunities to identify, recognize, practice, and use their character strengths, which include qualities like kindness, humor, creativity, and bravery.
- Building Resilience.
- Sadly, you cannot always impact the life of a student outside of school, but you can teach resilience strategies that help a student affected by trauma to gain a better understanding of their situation and to counteract the negative messages of shame they often internalize.
- Students can practice resilience skills through role plays that help them to act out skills such as setting boundaries and verbalizing their feelings, all while in the safety of a classroom.
Teachers can also use moments in the learning process when students feel frustrated or self-suspicious about how to dispute their pessimism and automatic negative thinking (“I can’t do this”; “I’m dumb”) to make room for optimism and constructive thinking (“Maybe I’m tired and I need a break”; “I solved the problem last week and I can do it again”; “It takes me a little longer than others, but I’ve come a long way”).
Learning resilience skills can provide an internal psychological buffer for students when they are out of school, as well as provide a strong experience in school.