Bruce D. Perry is the well-known child Psychiatrist who authored The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook. Among his patients were the children of the Branch Davidians, the ill-fated cult led by David Koresh in Waco, Texas, in the 1990s. Honestly, the book is hard to read at times. If, however, you want to learn about childhood trauma and how it's treated, this is the place to start.
This is it! In order to handle traumatized, emotionally disturbed students in our classrooms, we absolutely need to do self-examination. We must identify our own "triggers" and learn from our responses (good and bad) to classroom "explosions," or simply disrespectful students who question our authority. This is an excellent, in-depth guide for making sure we are emotionally ready to deal with whatever we encounter in the classroom.
This resource differentiates symptoms of trauma for elementary, middle school, and high school students. The section "What can be done at school to help a traumatized child?" is relevant to classroom teachers, though we all know that we don't always have as much time for individual students as we'd like.The authors make the important point that when trauma or ongoing abuse is suspected, we should speak to administration/counseling staff.
What I like about this article is that it acknowledges how hard it is, and how unnatural it is, for humans (including teachers) to respond in a calm, detached manner to someone who is screaming, threatening, or simply defying our authority. It cannot be done, says the author, without practice. The sections entitled "Non-Verbal Techniques," "Verbal Strategies," and "Things to Avoid" should be required reading for any new teacher.
This is a simple, straight-to-the-point contrast between ineffective and effective ways to respond to angry, traumatized students acting out in the classroom. It's hard to respond calmly, or say nothing at all, when a student is cursing at you. According to this article, though, it's the safest approach. Wait until the student has calmed down to say anything. Never threaten a consequence or respond angrily.
This case-study contrasts two classroom situations. In the first, a teacher responds angrily and threateningly to a students' refusal to complete an assignment. The child ends up throwing pencils and running out of the room. In the second, the teacher responds calmly, talks to the student privately, and prevents a meltdown. Unfortunately, I've witnessed teachers and subs over the years who could have defused a child's anger, but instead threw fuel on the fire.
Godwin Higa, Principal at Cherokee Point Elementary School, explains in this video how his school handles student misbehavior with "trauma-informed" teaching. Rather than treating disruptive behavior as a discipline problem, they ask the children "What's happened to you?" Mr. Higa says that suspensions have dropped at his school.
This article explains that some schools in CA are paying attention to research that shows how children's brains adapt to traumatic life experiences. Events that might cause no distress at all in some children cause "fight or flight" reactions in children who've been exposed to abuse and violence. Teachers in some districts are being trained to interact with traumatized students in ways that help, rather than harm.