Becoming Trauma-Informed

What a journey! After 16 weeks of reading and research, I have learned so much about Trauma-Informed educational models and Social Emotional Learning this semester! And yet if I were to estimate how much I have read compared to the amount of information out there—it would probably be about .001% of the total body of knowledge created by researchers and clinicians over the last couple of decades. The word burgeoning comes to mind when considering all the learning science that has grown out of…well, technology, really. Because researchers before technology (BT) couldn’t measure the brain, map the brain or observe the inner-workings of the brain in action.

Despite all this empirical energy, enthusiasm and expertise and technology, however, the revolution needed to transform educational models into trauma-informed models has yet to occur.

Why, is this the case, you ask?

It certainly isn’t that the need for these systems has decreased; there are no signs of traumatic events in American culture decreasing anytime soon. Perhaps, it’s that people have reached a higher plane of enlightenment through advanced practice of social emotional skills, and so they are now better able to cope with trauma, get on with their lives freed from the bursts of emotion-based behavior that not only disrupt their own lives but the lives of everyone around them, to the point of becoming toxic to self and others. Naaa. We’re stuck with that for awhile, I’m afraid.

The bottom line: Kids who have experienced trauma will continue to be in our classrooms for a long time to come.  In fact, we can now add a larger number of climate refugees to our long list of woes. Never forget Paradise, California. Home to 27,000 people, Paradise  burned to the ground in less time than most people spend on domestic air travel.

So if volumes of Learning Science research shows that the emotional regulatory capacity of the learner may be one of the greatest predictors of success—and also one of the key tools that we have to improve equity in our educational systems—then how come we see so few educational systems actually apply these models effectively?

Simple answer: the solutions proposed by these models put too much of the burden on teachers. Even if we want to classify teachers as Saints there are practical pedagogical limits to what they can do in the classroom. I hate to beat the same drum here, but what we need to do instead of asking educators to do more is to build better tools that will help educators: help educators, help students.

These systems need should require only quick, micro-training or no training at all. Think iPhone. Think television. Plug, then play. Gaming environments, mobile devices, ipads can all deliver what we know teachers need. Not as a lesson that teachers need to learn—I love how everyone’s an expert on what teachers need to learn—not! We don’t need more training, we need more tools.

Like this one:

This is an example of a practical “help educators, help students” tool that provides a research-based trauma-informed toolkit—only you would never know it. Because it does something useful! It provides the framework that all kids need to build planning and self-regulation skills without calling attention to the other benefits embedded in its research-based instructional design. Love Sown to Grow! Hurray!

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