In any given teaching environment whether in the classroom at school or the youth room at a church what we see is only a small piece of the bigger story. While this may not be news to us it could still be argued most teachers/leaders respond to those they are guiding often without considering what is causing the person to act as they do.
In my opinion, the key question and answer of this interview is the following,
QUESTION: "Why do you think people in education are not more aware of the importance of the relationship between violence and children’s cognitive development and its effect on learning?"
ANSWER: “It’s because teachers haven’t been invited to the table. I go to a lot of research conferences on childhood trauma and the people that are there tend to be either researchers, or sometimes mental health experts and psychologists. Even when I raise questions about why teachers aren’t invited, it’s like they fall back on me with ‘Well, teachers teach, they don’t deal with mental health.’ My argument is that yes, teachers do teach, and one of the ways out of the effects of trauma is to help them teach in a manner that works for the brain to overcome trauma.”
Every week I work with youth of different races and across the spectrum of economic backgrounds. I see these kids for such a small portion of their week and try as I might the truth is I will only see a small portion of their bigger life. It is quite possible these youth may come in the youth room or the class where I tutor carrying the weight of some trauma big or small. For me to be with them and not be sensitive to this possibility, limits my ability to point them to the God who restores. It blinds me to the greater story of tragedy or loss they may have experienced and in times where discipline is needed for misbehaving, compassion may take a distant backseat.
This interview goes on to suggest a few understandings helpful for teachers to change the mind-set of their learning environments toward a more trauma sensitive classroom. Ms. Craig offers that “overcoming people’s denial about the role trauma plays in children’s lives” is difficult.
She also challenges people to change their thinking about classroom management. She asserts we think all children will have high motivation to work for rewards forgetting kids who have been traumatized are not operating in the normal patterns.
Finally Craig cautions teachers to take care of themselves while they are taking care of those who are traumatized. Mental health issues arise for the care-giver and support needs to be offered.
As we consider these points it is beneficial to consistently evaluate how we are approaching those for whom we are caring and those we lead and teach. What assumptions and categories are we bringing into the setting? How can we work more effectively with mental health professionals in caring for those we teach and shepherd? How can we more adequately equip ourselves to be sensitive to trauma and respond adequately?
If you want to read the full interview go here.
* For more information on caring for children and youth after trauma, visit our youth ministry tools and training page.
Doug Ranck is Associate Pastor of Youth and Worship at Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara, CA. With three decades of youth ministry experience, he serves as ICTG Program Director for Youth Ministry, as well as a leading consultant, trainer and speaker with Ministry Architects, the Southern California Conference, and, nationally, with the Free Methodist Church. He has written numerous articles for youth ministry magazines and websites, and published the Creative Bible Lessons Series: Job (Zondervan, 2008). Doug is happily married to Nancy, proud father of Kelly, Landon and Elise, and never gets tired of looking at the Pacific ocean every day.