Responding to Trauma-Impact in the Classroom

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Requests for ways to respond to trauma-impact in the classroom.

I’ve had an uptick in requests for workshops or professional development to better understand and respond to trauma-impact in the classroom. Requests are coming from corrections educators, social service providers, and instructors in colleges in the US and Canada. I love hearing from you and I try to respond to everyone who writes. I recently responded to such a request and decided it might make a useful blog post as a free, DIY, 90-minute professional development workshop for teachers of adult learners experiencing trauma-impact. Following is a step-by-step guide for just that, with two handouts you can feel free to photocopy and use, with my copyright intact.

Start where people are – with support for the problem they are trying to solve.

I’m a big believer in starting where people are – with the problem they are trying to solve. Once you demonstrate you can provide real help for the challenge they are experiencing, then you have earned the right to broaden the conversation to the causes of a problem and a shift in policy and practice for responding to it.

Educators notice challenging behavior in their classroom.

Trauma-impact is coming to light because it causes problems for teachers and learners in the classroom. Trauma-impact results in fight, flight and freeze behaviors and these responses interrupt learning for the individual experiencing them, the instructor, and other learners in the classroom. Responding to challenging behavior in healthy, helpful ways is a great place to begin the conversation about ways to enhance trauma-informed classroom practice. To get the conversation going with your colleagues, perhaps you can start with this 90-minute professional development workshop.

Try out this free, DIY, 90-minute workshop for responding to trauma-impact in the classroom.

  1. Invite your colleagues to share out challenging classroom scenarios or challenging student behaviors. List those on a flip chart or whiteboard.
  2. Print out copies of the following blog post with 10 strategies and a classroom story to illustrate them, and take a few minutes to have everyone read it: 10 Trauma-Informed Classroom Strategies for Navigating Classroom Behavior Emergencies.
  3. Distribute The Three I’s – A Strategy for Responding to Classroom Behavior Emergencies handout with its very specific 3-part strategy that I used in the above post. Discuss and identify where this strategy shows up in the story and why they think it worked to help the student in the story successfully move through being triggered. Discuss how this could help build trust and a safe classroom and support learning as a result.
  4. Distribute The Three I’s Template and (depending on the size of your group) ask individuals, pairs, or small groups to select a challenging classroom behavior listed on the flip chart to run through the strategy. Make sure several issues are covered and that groups work on different issues. Have each group write down on the attached template things they could say to use each part of the strategy to address the challenging behavior.
  5. Have groups demonstrate how they applied the strategy to their situation through a role-play they share with the larger group. Have the group discuss why they think it is a trauma-informed approach, how they think the student(s) might respond, and what impact this might have on learning.
  6. After the meeting, make copies of each group’s work on the templates (or scan and email) so that everyone in the group gets a copy of each situation with the strategy applied.
  7. Ask participants to meet again to report out on their use of the strategy.

Would you be willing…?

What I would greatly appreciate is to hear back from you in the comments section if you give this workshop a try with your colleagues. Learning together is so much more enriching than simply posting my thoughts with no interaction from you. Would you be willing to join the conversation in the comments below?

The Three I’s – A Strategy for Responding to Classroom Behavior Emergencies

The Three I’s Template

Trauma-informed classroom practices in other learning settings.

Working with an Angry Outburst in My Prison Classroom

Responding to an Insurrection in a Graduate Program Classroom