Take a Peek Inside a Trauma-Sensitive School

What other schools might see as bullying, San Francisco’s El Dorado Elementary recognizes as children acting out trauma. Check out these excerpts from an ACEs Too High article… that reported an 89% drop in suspensions!

“Many teachers and principals think kids’ “bad” behavior is deliberate, and that the kids can control it. But it’s often not and they can’t – not without help, says Dorado. Their behaviors are a normal response to stresses they’re not equipped to deal with. Throwing a punch makes sense if they’re jumping in to defend their mother from an alcoholic raging father; screaming in fury is a normal reaction to a bully who continuously harasses them. But when the raised voice of a teacher or a counselor who’s criticizing them inadvertently triggers the same response, these behaviors look “abnormal, rude, or inappropriate,” says Dorado. “So, they’re getting kicked out of class and disengage from school. That puts our kids at incredible risk for later problems, including imprisonment.”


El Dorado Elementary School Principal Silvia Cordero

“We’re trying to change the school culture,” by teaching educators about the underlying neurobiology of trauma, she explains. “When we see aggravating behavior in a kid and ask the question, ‘What has happened to you?’ instead of ‘What’s wrong with you?’, that’s the fundamental reframe. This reframe helps give the behavior a context, engenders compassion, and helps us respond more effectively.”

The good news is that kids’ brains are plastic. If they develop a trusted relationship with a caring adult, if they’re taught how to calm themselves. If they spend more time in a resilience-building environment than a traumatic environment, their brains will heal and they will become happy and eternally curious learning sponges — i.e., their natural state of being.

“You can’t punish behavior out of a kid,” says Caldwell. “The old-school model of discipline expects kids to listen to you just because you’re a grown-up. But they won’t, especially when they’re being raised in an environment where grownups are not trustworthy or safe. You have to understand where the students are coming from, develop a relationship with them so that they will trust you, teach them empathy. That’s what’s going to make a successful community.”

“The American myth is that you can lift yourself up with your bootstraps,” continues Schoeman, “and if you fail, the myth says it’s because you didn’t work hard enough. But we now know through research and data that there are plenty of reasons to debunk this archetype.

“It gives you pause about how poorly kids are treated in this society in so many ways.”

via San Francisco’s El Dorado Elementary uses trauma-informed & restorative practices; suspensions drop 89% « ACEs Too High.

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