Children in our classroom often face issues of substance abuse in the home, parental separation and/or divorce, mental illness in the home, domestic violence, suicidal household members, death of a parent or other loved one, parental incarceration, abuse, and neglect. These experiences, as well as numerous others, often exceed a child’s ability to cope, causing stress and releasing toxic levels of fight, flight, or freeze hormones into the brain. The end result is a traumatic experience that impacts their ability to function in a variety of settings.
In their book Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom, authors Kristin Souers and Pete Hall identify several ways trauma manifests itself in students in our classrooms (p.29):
- Flight: May manifest as withdrawing, fleeing, skipping class, seeming to sleep, avoiding others, hiding or wandering, and becoming disengaged.
- Fight: May manifest as acting out, behaving aggressively, acting silly, exhibiting defiance, being hyperactive, arguing, and screaming/yelling.
- Freeze: May manifest as exhibiting numbness, refusing to answer, refusing to get needs met, giving a blank look, and feeling unable to move or act.
Students who are manifesting the effect of trauma need a safe and predictable classroom, as well as skills to manage their feelings. Take your increased awareness of students dealing with trauma into your planning for next week. Be aware of their needs and your response to them. Become that safe and trustworthy adult that they need in their lives.