Over the past year or so, I've been grappling with a shift from a medical model of trauma (you know, where teachers see images of brain scans and learn how trauma is so damaging) to a systems and assets view of trauma. In the new view, centering the brain-based model is super harmful. Even so, I struggled to dislodge the "child is damaged" paradigm from my mind. One pivotal moment in my journey of understanding came when I posted a raw and honest confession on Instagram. Keep reading to learn what happened and how you can embrace discomfort and critical conversations too!
The role of teachers in trauma-informed networks can be elusive. In this post, I consider how knowing the resources in your community can help you find your place in a trauma-informed network. We’ll look at the work of Alex Shevrin Venet on building bridges to resources, discuss how I built bridges in a residential treatment setting by understanding the roles of others in the organization, and consider how that might translate to a public school setting.
How to confidently Navigate Your Role in Trauma-Informed Systems | Clear Boundaries
In trauma-informed networks, teachers may be unsure of their role. Teachers may think they are being asked to act as counselors. That’s simply not the case. Instead, teachers should strive to find their limits in a trauma-informed network. One way is by defining clear boundaries in relation to a) helping students manage their trauma, b) expectations for students in your classroom, and c) appropriate teacher-student interactions.
Students, particularly those affected by trauma, thrive with consistency and clear expectations from teachers. What’s more, teachers who hold clear boundaries are more likely to feel confident in their ability to support the academic success of trauma-affected youth. Knowing your limits and what should be expected of you in your role as a trauma-informed teacher can start by defining your own boundaries. Not sure where the boundaries should be? Read on to find out!
How to Confidently Navigate Your Role in Trauma-Informed Systems | Testimony & Witness
It may be obvious what school mental health practitioners are supposed to do as components of trauma-informed networks, but it is rarely so clear what teachers should do. I’m here to help synthesize what the experts are saying about the role of teachers in trauma-informed networks.
Prominent voices in the trauma-informed education world including Arlène Casimir, Addison Duane, Dr. Elizabeth Dutro, Latoya Nelson, and Alex Shevrin Venet each contribute to clarifying the teacher's role. Some of their thinking includes that teachers: are fellow humans, equally vulnerable to life’s adversities and capable of connecting with children in healthy ways; must be mindful when discussing difficult topics to remain open to the raw emotion of adversity; avoid and/or dismantle savior complexes; set and manage clear boundaries; and be familiar with the resources available in the community.
In this post, I’ll speak to the concept of teachers’ humanity and vulnerability by outlining Elizabeth Dutro's "Testimony and Witness". I want to quickly attend to a caveat. Dutro actually moves beyond the terms testimony and witness, emphasizing "testimony and critical witness" to indicate a more critical stance evoking equity and social justice issues. See her article for more details on what makes critical witness so critical.
For this blog post, I am using the terms testimony and witness because I'm presenting a simplified version of Dutro's model to get you started in your process. I encourage you to read into the concept of critical witness and move beyond simply serving as witness to take action and dismantle oppressive forces in your classroom and community.
I confess, when I first heard about Elizabeth Dutro’s concept of testimony and witness, I felt really uncomfortable. Testimony and witness is a powerful tool to make literacy instruction trauma-informed. Want to know why it made me squirm? Keep reading to find out why and learn how my thinking has dramatically shifted!
In my previous post, I wrote out some legitimate reasons you might resist incorporating, inviting, and engaging in trauma stories in your classroom. I also shared some reasons why doing so is powerful humanizing practice. Here, I'm going to share with you how to overcome the discomfort of resistance by educating yourself, developing a network of support, starting small, and using multiple modalities to make expression less daunting.
Tough topics are uncomfortable. They are prickly and can open old wounds. Yet, these same topics are what make the human experience so meaningful.
Not sure how to overcome the discomfort of allowing trauma and the fullness of life into your classroom? Keep reading to learn how to overcome those barriers to "identify larger themes for connection and invitation and, in turn, allow children to see their life experiences, including trauma, as part and parcel of what matters in school" (Dutro, 2019, p. 31).
Teachers and students who share and bear witness to one another’s adversities and who read, watch, talk, and write about the fullness of life may experience discomfort in doing so.
We are, after all, working with topics that may cause us to feel emotions that are typically unwelcome in schools and may be hard to express publicly. In this post, I’ll unravel what may cause the discomfort with sharing trauma stories in schools.
Have you heard about the idea of bringing trauma stories, trauma-informed literature, or simply stories of adversity into your classroom literacy practices? Not sure you feel comfortable doing so? Keep reading to learn where that resistance might be coming from.
Trauma-informed book choices and testimony and witness practices, when balanced with attention to healthy boundaries, can support the academic success of trauma-affected youth.
Stories that students can relate to open the classroom up as a safe place where trauma is destigmatized. Below, I provide several book lists and recommendations for how to confidently and effectively incorporate trauma-informed literature and share stories of adversity in your classroom.
Teachers have been using bibliotherapy for decades now to support the SEL of students. Recently, they've been finding bibliotherapy to fall short.
Now, educators are recognizing the power of trauma stories to destigmatize trauma, connect students to powerful themes of the human experience, and help empower students in their own recovery from trauma. These include stories shared by both teachers and students in a reciprocal process of testimony and witness, which goes beyond bibliotherapy to develop deep humanizing connection.
Keep reading to learn how to incorporate trauma-informed literature and testimony and witness along with some great book lists! Plus, stay tuned for more posts about what’s happening in classrooms connecting trauma-informed practices and literacy instruction.
This is the second of two posts all about what I'm learning that is working for literacy educators employing trauma-informed practices NOW. If you didn't see the first post, find it here. To sum up the first three practices before going into the next three, teachers are using bibliotherapy and trauma-informed book choices, defining the role of teachers within the trauma-informed network, and having students journal.
For this post, I'll describe some of the basic notions behind three more practices I'm seeing. These include attention to privacy and the establishment of healthy boundaries; the recognition that lots of race-based traumas go unnoticed in traditional literacy practices; and that literacy teachers are expanding what counts as appropriate to talk, write, and read about and also as instruction and assessment of learning.
Teachers and researchers are doing some amazing things when it comes to literacy pedagogy and trauma-informed practices. Not sure what that all looks like? Keep reading to learn how educators are currently employing trauma-informed practices in service of literacy instruction! Plus, stay tuned for several more posts elaborating on these ideas with links to research, tools, and social media.
I've been studying what trauma-informed literacy practices (TILPs- I just made that acronym up) look like in literacy classrooms and in the research literature right now. I'm also investigating how TILPs in education might look in the future. I've observed teachers through social media and direct conversations and am combing the literature, both past and current. What I'm seeing includes: trauma-informed book choices and practices of testimony and witness; journaling; attention to privacy and boundaries; increased and improved racial and cultural inclusion; and a wider definition of what counts as literacy. To clarify, the wider definition of literacy includes both multimodality and what counts as appropriate subjects of reading, writing, and discussion in schools.
Many of you are already incorporating trauma-informed practices with grace and sensitivity into your literacy instruction. Want to know what I'm seeing out there that aligns TIPs with literacy instruction? Keep reading for the first of two posts briefly outlining what TILPs are happening right now! Also, stay tuned for subsequent posts going deeper into each practice with external references and tools.
Implementing multimodalities in a trauma-informed way may feel intimidating at first. But, keeping in mind that you can still be consistent and predictable while being flexible, that you don’t have to have all the answers, and that you can still hold students accountable, will help things go more smoothly.
Incorporating multimodality can feel like pandora’s box if you don’t have the right structures in place. Keep reading to learn how to be predictable and consistent, invite students ideas into the mix, and hold them accountable all while being flexible!
My name is Erin E. Silcox. I'm working on my Ph.D. in Literacy Education, focusing on the intersection of trauma and literacy. I want to deepen our base of knowledge about trauma-informed practices in schools and help teachers apply findings right now.