Trauma Informed Teaching, A New Hope

Kathryn Bumgarner

Trauma Informed Teaching, A New Hope

Trauma Informed Teaching, A New Hope. The beginning of a new school year brings the excitement of a new teacher, new school, new friends, and new school supplies, backpack, lunch box, the smell of new books, and smell of summer leaves changing and preparing for fall. Along with the excitement and freshness of the new, letting go of what was brings sadness at the same time.

The old school, the old teacher from last year (not old in years). The best friend who is now going to a different school, the little girl who is now a tween, and the little boy who is now a teenage-ager with maybe some confusion about who exactly that teenager is. And the teachers who remember what the first day of school was before the school resource officer was a vital team member. The first day of school this year is feeling the responsibility of knowing the drills for an active shooter and lock down procedures, maintaining the security of the facility, and to never ever run out to get some forgotten item from the car, leaving a side door propped open for five minutes.

The current reality is a dark cloud hanging over the excitement and sadness of the beginning of the new school year. Hopeless is a word frequently expressed. Humans can not live without hope. As a hospice nurse for many years, one of the most helpful discussions was about how the object of hope changes. Early in the cancer journey, there was hope tests would all come back to be within normal limits and nothing suspicious looking would be found on the x-rays and images. Then there was hope for a moment the results were mixed up with another person’s results. Then the hope was for the treatment that would bring about the cure. Then there was hope that maybe a new treatment would be discovered. Then there was hope for a miracle. Then the hope was for time, time to attend the wedding, or graduation. Then hope was for a peaceful and comfortable death, saying good-byes.

There is hope for teachers navigating this new world. The feeling of hopelessness as this dark cloud hangs over the beginning of a new school year, can be an opportunity for teachers who are called to teach to consider, in a similar way, how the object of hope changes. Testing and licensure do not prepare for the trauma that face teachers and students today with no attention to traumatic stress experienced in the body or emotional well-being. The focus is on subject area content, and student outcomes with little if any attention to the student’s trauma. Yet, they are expected to be “on” when students are around. To be fully present comes with a cost, with teachers largely on their own in navigating this difficult reality of individual and collective trauma.

Healing from trauma does not and can not happen alone. As teachers are traumatized, and school systems are traumatized, re-traumatizing teachers who are responsible for teaching children who are traumatized, the elephant in the room becomes seen. The culture is a collective trauma culture. With increasing knowledge and understanding of trauma eruptions, healing begins in community. With healing of individual and collective trauma, energy is released that has been frozen and with this unfrozen released energy emerges creativity, inspiration, miracles.

When one teacher, student, or parent heals, we heal. “We are the medicine”, writes Dr. Christina Bethell. Healing from trauma happens in relationship and in community. This is why trauma recovery coaching is extremely effective. Being seen and being heard in the coaching relationship, ripples out to the community of teachers, school systems, and students. The ripple begins with one person’s synchronized nervous system, one person’s attunement, responding to what emerges from a coherent grounded place, rather than reacting. This is the new hope. Healing from trauma is sacred. This is where miracles happen.

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