It’s that time of year again. The long awaited first day of school. Five year olds everywhere are bracing themselves for their new lives as students. Most of them are well prepared for school. Others are not. Although they all have the same dreams, many face greater challenges as they strive for academic and social competence.
Insuring success for all requires schools to take a hard look at the adversity faced by many children, and create classroom environments to meet their needs. A good place to start is with professional development. The more teachers and administrators know about the brain’s plasticity, the easier it will be for them to interact with students in a manner that “trains the brain” to override the impulsivity of the limbic system, and rely more on higher order thinking.
Overriding the impulsivity of the limbic system is never easy, especially for children who suffer from a state of hyper-arousal caused by changes in their brain’s architecture brought on by stress. A trauma-sensitive approach to their instruction includes frequent reassurances about their safety, predictable routines, clear rules, and dependable support.
Use of instructional designs like differentiated instruction and dialogic reading are other ways to foster a trauma-sensitive approach. Both encourage meaningful conversation, choice-making and self-reflection- all important for strengthening the neural pathways required for problem-solving and self-regulation.
Like all good teaching, trauma-sensitive instruction relies on the relationships adults create with children. Staff working with traumatized children need good self-monitoring skills themselves, as well as a willingness to do what it takes to remain calm and emotionally available.
For more on this topic, check out Becky Bailey’s website http://www.consciousdiscipline.com