Disclaimer: I am not a trained counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. I am an educator, I attended public school for 12 years, I spent four years at a public university, received my graduate degree, and I taught nearly 1,000 students over a seven year span in public schools. Most importantly, I am a mom of a little boy.
As I watch the news, I hear the details surrounding the school shooting that took place yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. I really can’t bear to hear the sounds of terrified students and teachers, the piercing pop of the bullets, or the sirens of first responders. It’s too much.
As I scroll through social media, I see teachers and parents calling for change by asking for new legislation to keep schools safe and protect our country’s children. I see the comments devolve from the situation at hand to some sort of political debate about who is to blame. It’s not enough.
There are children who did not come home last night.
There are parents who did not come home last night.
Friends, peers, role models, teachers, parents, sisters, brothers did not come home last night.
We have to do something. And yet, no one can agree on what the “something” is. This image below (source unknown) perfectly summarizes the situation at hand. As American citizens we have several rights given to us by the Constitution of the United States, and two of them are the right to vote and the right to contact our leaders and affect change. But we can’t stop there.
We are personally responsible for our decisions as educators and parents.
To me, this epidemic seems to be the symptom of a terrible disease. Last month, my husband and I attended a weekend-long training about raising children who come from trauma. You see, we are adopting our second son from China, where he has spent his life in an orphanage.
As I sat in the training absorbing the impact that trauma has on one’s brain, development, communication, and general well-being, I couldn’t help but think about the implications of trauma in the classroom. In 2018, being a teenager is hard and while I am certified to teach math and know how to listen and cultivate relationships with students, I had never been to a training on the impact of trauma.
“TBRI® is designed for children from ‘hard places’ such as abuse, neglect, and/or trauma. Because of their histories, it is often difficult for these children to trust the loving adults in their lives, which often results in perplexing behaviors. TBRI® offers practical tools for parents, caregivers, teachers, or anyone who works with children, to see the ‘whole child’ in their care and help that child reach his highest potential.” – Dr. Karen Purvis, Trust-Based Relational Intervention
Our students are coming to us with backgrounds of trauma.
Loss of a loved one.
The foster system.
Social media pressures.
Feeling left out.
Lack of connection.
We need to be equipped.
I would like to start a dialogue about what we can personally do to affect change in our neighborhoods, in our schools, and in our country.
1. We can vote and contact our representatives.
As I mentioned above, that is right given to us by the Constitution of the United States of America. Do not be guilty of forsaking that right. If you aren’t sure who your local congressman is, then use this link to find their contact information. There are several different activists groups you can join at a local and national level, as well. Become educated on who is running for office, what they stand for, and what organizations are funding their campaigns.
2. We can cultivate a classroom culture of respect, safety, and listening first.
Our students need someone to listen, to really sit down and listen. I know that there is curriculum to teach, and standardized tests to prepare for, so it isn’t easy to set aside time to listen. We can set the tone with respectful speech, we can teach our students what that looks and sounds like, and we can make our classrooms a joyful place to belong.
3. We can cultivate an anti-bullying school culture.
Is there a clear and succinct system in place in the event a child is being bullied? Are teachers and administrators quick to take action? Is there a healing process and a rehabilitation process for students to go through? These are things to advocate for on your campus.
4. We can solicit the help of mentors, role models, and tutors.
Obviously, there are not enough hours in the day to facilitate all the recommendations, trainings, and interventions. Ask for help. In years past, I have volunteered with Kids Hope USA and been paired with an at-risk student. Mentors and students get to meet weekly for the purpose of building a relationship and being a safe person. Is there someone willing to head this up for your school? Communities in Schools, Kids Hope USA, and your local Boys and Girls Club all have great programs already in place to assist.
5. We can equip our campuses with mental health training and resources.
I can personally attest to TBRI and the resources they provide. Additionally, they offer a training called TBRI and Trauma Informed Classrooms which is specific to educators.
“Children from ‘hard places’ have changes in their brains, bodies, and behavior. They must feel safe in order to access their whole brain so that it is responsive for learning.” -TBRI and Trauma Informed Classrooms
6. We can parent our children with boundaries.
As a mom, I can provide boundaries and have discussions about why they exist. I can put down my phone and have a conversation face-to-face. I can listen without judgement and instruct from a place of experience. I can provide a safe place at the dinner table where my son knows that he is loved and that he belongs. I can teach him how to care for others, to look out for those who need a friend, and to be inclusive on the playground.
I would like to make this a place where ideas are shared that will affect change in our classrooms, communities, and country. I would love to hear actionable ideas and resources in the comments below.
If you would like to start a political debate, then please click to your personal Facebook page and begin there. This is a place where we can discuss how we can individually affect change. I will affect change. Will you?