The stress response in trauma-exposed students may be hypersensitive. When we don’t recognize race-based traumas in schools, we may be mislabeling students of color as defiant, difficult, or unteachable.
As a teacher, you can push back against mislabeling children who are experiencing race-based trauma. It starts with recognizing it. Keep reading to learn more!
In a 2019 post for ASCD titled “Mindfulness Won’t Save Us. Fixing the System Will”, Christina Torres (@biblio_phile), an English teacher in Honolulu, situated mindfulness in the conversation on equity and systemic trauma. Mindfulness is not a silver bullet for children who’ve experienced trauma and oppression. It is simply one tool that teachers can use to support students’ readiness to learn and manage emotions. Importantly, Torres highlighted that the problems facing students in oppressed communities are systemic. Torres presented the idea that mindfulness embraces not just the beautiful and pleasant, but also helps us manage the difficult aspects of life. It supports our ability to be present when dealing with tough subjects, just as much as it can help us to notice the world around us. Taking Torres’ work a step further, I share with you work I did using a self-study to investigate my own biases and assumptions to become more anti-racist. I share how mindfulness can support our self-awareness when making critical pedagogical decisions.
Teachers and students should use mindfulness to dig deep into their assumptions, biases, and the consequences of those thoughts. Not sure how this all fits together? Keep reading to learn where mindfulness fits in the conversation about equity!
The trauma-informed rhetoric has been focused on a medical model of trauma. We have been looking at how the brain is impacted by trauma and ways teachers need to heal students. In addition, a narrow definition of trauma as both deficit and recognizable leaves out the notion that racism and subjugation are traumatic, especially when they occur in schools. We need to shift how we define trauma away from a deficit-based medical model. Also, we need to rethink what we count as trauma so we can recognize race-based traumas in schools and act in opposition to them.
We always talk about what counts as trauma and what counts is usually some form of cognitive and developmental damage from recognizable incidents. What about other factors in the lives of our students are traumatizing, yet don’t look so on the surface? Keep reading to learn how race-based traumas go unnoticed in schools because of our narrow and deficit-based definition of what gets to count as trauma.
Mindfulness is a great practice for trauma-affected youth to develop self-regulation. To use it as a classroom management tool in support of students’ growing personal control, start by developing a daily practice so students know what tools they have to choose from and how to use them. Next, make all hardware and software students might need to engage in guided mindfulness activities readily available. Set up a set of expectations for how students access the activities, how long they can use them, and what they can expect if they misuse them. Finally, support students in decide when it’s the right time to use mindfulness to regain control. Make sure to be consistent.
Mindfulness is a great alternative to power struggles. You should use it to help trauma-affected students to self-regulate and remain in class without losing too much instructional time, making a scene, or embarrassing them. Also, it will help them develop self-regulation. But how do you do it? Keep reading to learn how to incorporate mindfulness as a classroom management tool.
Mindfulness should be practiced in a repeated, consistent, and ongoing way to be effective in helping rewire the trauma-affected brain. In order to incorporate it in a sustainable way, teachers should set aside a time to do mindfulness everyday, stick to it, and develop a running list of varied activities so you don’t have to think too hard when it comes time to implementing your plan.
For mindfulness to truly work in helping trauma-affected students, it needs to be repeated consistently in an ongoing manner. That is, students should do it at the same time (or as close to that as possible) each day. Frequency, according to the mindfulness app Headspace (2020), is more important than duration, so one short meditation every day is better than one long one once a week. But, how do you incorporate mindfulness every single day? Keep reading to learn how!
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.