Students who have experienced trauma need a safe and caring adult to help intervene when they respond to some emotional trigger in the classroom. In their book Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom, authors Kristin Souers and Pete Hall detail six communication steps that are helpful when addressing student in crisis (pp. 79-82):
- Listen. While it may be difficult to not immediately interject in a heated moment, it is best to listen carefully to what a student in crises is telling you. Often the student is conveying an important message about what triggered the response, whether it is exhaustion, prior bad experiences, a belief system, preconceived notions, or fear.
- Reassure. A student in crisis needs to know that his/her perspective is important.
- Validate. A validation is an acknowledgement that you hear the student. A validation is not an acceptance or approval of the student behavior.
- Respond. Respond by explaining your observation of the incident. A response is not a time to defend your position, but it is a time to share your perception of the situation.
- Repair. A repair could be simply expressing that you are sorry the student is having the experience at this time. If you believe you somehow caused a trigger response, a heartfelt apology may be in order.
- Resolve. A resolution is an opportunity to work with the student to develop a new way of behaving in the classroom so another trigger response is not exhibited. This may require behavioral changes on the part of the student, the teacher, or both.
As you plan for your week ahead, think about how you can partner with students to create a safe, caring environment that will allow for positive and productive classroom outcomes. You and your students will benefit greatly!