I owe you an apology. I may have miscommunicated what I was trying to say in my last blog. I am guessing that is what happened. I heard from parents with struggling kids. I heard from friends that discovered their high ACE scores may be the missing piece to their health puzzle. I heard from others that just thought it was some good, new information. Even Oprah is talking about trauma sensitive schools now. See what she says here But I didn’t hear from any teachers. Well, one.
I was confused.
My words were not meant to say it is the teachers’ fault that there are school shootings or that it is your sole responsibility to fix these children.
It was not my intent to make you feel like you are responsible for one more thing. Lord knows you are burdened with enough to do in a day.
I was not trying to say teachers need to be mental health care providers along with everything else you are required to do.
So I am sorry if I made you feel like this was your fault.
But I do think teachers can be a big part of the solution. For many students, a teacher is the only adult in their world who can provide a safe and predictable relationship.
Many of you reposted the Teacher Of The Year’s post that went viral. And I agree with a lot of what she said.
But that was my point exactly…it is because of the family situation that many of these kids have such high ACEs Read about ACEs here. The family is failing in most of these kids’ lives who are causing the biggest discipline issues. If the parents stepped up, the ACEs would be lower in the first place.
But if I may, let me tell you a story…
Years ago, my family was failing.
And my kids’ ACEs score was climbing. 4 to be exact.
But I wasn’t educated in the brain science of toxic stress and my parenting style, that had always worked in the past, was making matters worse.
I knew my son was struggling with anxiety. Stomach aches, head aches, a racing pulse, and panic attacks were becoming a daily occurrence; and the intensity was increasing drastically in spite of all my son and I were doing to try to calm it. The anxiety was becoming debilitating. I was doing all I knew to do. I read books on anxiety. I provided a diet and supplements that supported a calm nervous system. We tried medication; some of which made everything worse. I found him professional help. (which is no small feat navigating the mental health system) I hired a yoga instructor. I was desperate to find help and get my happy, healthy child back.
Even though I was in my own crisis and chaos, I at least had the education and means to find him help. Even with the resources available to me, It was still a struggle and one of the hardest things I have had to face. So, think of all those parents that don’t have the resources or the wherewithal to get help. How much harder must it be for them to advocate for their children; how much harder for them to “step up”.
I was trying to be the parent to, as the viral post stated, “step up”
But my parenting was making it worse.
In the beginning I was all like “get up off the floor and go to school” ” I am not going to be manipulated by this” ” Hey I don’t feel like going to work either but I have to, so you can go to school”
And the teachers were the same.
“He’s being lazy” “He’s not doing his work” ” He’s smart, but doesn’t care” “How can he learn if he doesn’t show up” “It’s your job to get him to school”
But his brain was malfunctioning. He was drowning in stress hormones and physically couldn’t do school things.
He could not operate out of his thinking brain when his emergency brain was in overdrive.
I was demanding he do things he physically couldn’t do; and his teachers were doing the same.
And it only compounded the anxiety.
It wasn’t until I discovered the science of toxic stress on the brain that things turned around. And though It went against my normal parenting expectations of work hard, don’t slack, and fight through hard things, our days became about all things calm – yoga, rest, and more rest. The priority was about removing triggers and healing his brain. His teachers thought I was enabling, helicoptering, and making excuses for his “laziness”. Some days I thought the same about myself. But in my gut I knew this was the right thing to do.
If he had strep throat or pneumonia I wouldn’t demand that he ” fight through it” I would give him all the things that would make him well.
If I only knew then what I know now.
If his teachers only knew what was going on in our home and what that stress was doing to his brain.
That is all I was suggesting in my last post.
That teachers look at students through a trauma sensitive lens.
Have high expectations in an environment of high support.
It is the connection of a teacher that can make a difference. Oprah says her teachers were the difference in overcoming the effects of her high ACEs. It doesn’t take much. It is really just about building safe, secure and consistent relationships with students. It is about looking at what may be behind the behaviors; not the just the behavior itself.
My friend gets it. She posted this the other day.
“I care more about loving them than I do about teaching English, but along the way they learn more than I thought possible”
And that is what a trauma sensitive lens looks like. And it is science. Research shows us that students learn, have higher test scores, and have better classroom behavior when they are in a classroom that is safe, nurturing, and relational. In other words, an environment that understands the science of trauma on a child’s brain.
I remember what it was like when I taught in a Title 1 school. I know there are kids that are “out of control” in your classroom and you don’t get the support you need from parents. I know teaching is demanding and draining and that many times you are expected to do the work of 10 people. But I also know that you have the potential to change a struggling students life with your connection. Maybe even the next Oprah.
I am thrilled to say that today my boy is doing fine in college. (and he is anything but lazy.) I’ll be honest, I never thought this day would come. It breaks my heart to think back on those days and how we struggled. I often wonder how different the outcome might have been had one of his teachers understood the science of trauma and toxic stress, and instead of asking him “What is wrong with you?” had simply asked “What has happened to you?”
That is all I was trying to say.
Most teachers didn’t’ go into teaching to hold a gun. They got into teaching to hold hands and hearts and minds.
And, of course, to have summers off.
“No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship” -James Comer