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Expert Tips for Trauma-Informed Teaching:

Plus Innovative Ideas for Anxiety, Work Refusal, Depression, Bullying

& Other Student Emotional & Behavioral Problems

Watch for New Tips to Be Added Regularly!

Every year, it just gets harder and harder to teach, counsel and manage students because it certainly can seem that there are way more students who are struggling emotionally and behaviorally. That’s why we’re starting this brand new resource for you that will offer lots of concrete, use-now strategies for trauma-informed teaching and counseling. Plus, we’ll include expert tips for related areas like bullying, anxiety, depression, family problems, work refusal and more.

If you’re like most of the teachers and counselors who come to our live and on-site workshops, you’re seeing much higher numbers of emotionally, behaviorally and socially challenged students. You’re also probably feeling like your university training didn’t adequately prepare you for today’s more difficult students. That’s where we fit in. We’re Youth Change, one of the oldest and most prominent resources in North America for teachers, counselors, social workers, juvenile court workers, psychologists, foster parents, principals and school counselors. Watch this space for new tips to be added regularly.

Expert Tip #1

How to Teach Students with Past or Current Trauma

We’ve been talking about trauma-informed teaching for many decades so it’s been heartening to see concern for students’ mental health getting broader notice lately– especially since so many schools lack a school counselor, or have school counselors whose time is consumed with tasks other than direct counseling and assistance. In our workshops, teachers often ask us about how to best sensitively teach students who look like they are struggling with some kind of emotional problem or crisis. Our answer is that teachers and other youth service providers are right to be concerned about adding to a child’s burdens, but fortunately we have a guideline that is the perfect answer to guide you.

trauma informedWhen teachers and other non-mental health professionals realize that a child is struggling with what appears to be past or current trauma, there can be a lot of guesswork about how to provide education to a student who is so debilitated by whatever is going on in their life. Of course, you report to your supervisor any specific safety concerns but most of the time, you lack any concrete information about what trauma, crisis, mental health issue or problem a student is facing.

Not knowing specifics can seem to be part of the problem because if you knew more, you could be guided by that. However, we teach that you don’t need to know exactly what is going on– even though it would obviously be very helpful as a guide. The image we offer is that you don’t need to see the skunk if you can smell it. So many of the clues you have observed about a distressed or traumatized student are the equivalent of the scent of the skunk. Once you realize that you may be working with a student who is struggling, you want to switch to approaches that are sensitive to the whatever trauma, distress or chaos that the child may be living with.

traumatized studentsHere is the key to educating this vulnerable population: You never abandon your mission to educate but you are careful to never accomplish your mission at any cost. Instead, you attempt to strike the balance between being sensitive to what the child is living through and your mission to educate. The world won’t care that a child has lived through trauma, crises, mental health issues or other stressful circumstances. The world will still require this youngster to be able to fill in a job application, make change and pay taxes– regardless of how painful their childhood has been or still is.

Here is how this guideline looks in practice in your classroom: Shoshona’s dad is a long haul trucker. When he is on the road, Shoshona is a relatively functional student. This is when you increase the demands you place on her, and decrease any accommodations you have offered. Oh oh. Shoshona’s dad is back off the road and her behavior has nose-dived. Now, you reduce the educational demands that you are placing on her while increasing the accommodations you offer her.

Striking this balance between your mission and the child’s level of functioning is the best way to provide education without causing the child more stress and anguish than they are already facing. This balance can shift weekly, monthly, daily or whenever as it is driven by the child’s behavior. Now, you have reduced the risk that you will feel terrible about how you worked with the student if you should overhear your school counselor explaining to another teacher that Shoshona is struggling more than usual because she was beaten up or left without a parent present for a week. By striking this balance, you never have to worry that you add more weight to a child’s already heavy load. By striking this balance, you never need to worry that you didn’t do all your could to educate a traumatized or distressed student. Striking the balance means that you are always being sensitive to the child’s level of functioning while never forgetting your mission to educate everyone in your classroom.

If you provide the type of trauma-informed teaching being discussed here, you will have completely maximized your positive impact on traumatized students. And, there’s little reason to worry about these students taking advantage of accommodations. You may be the only sane, sober, humane adult in their world. They are unlikely to jeopardize their lifeline. Instead, it is more likely that they will develop strong loyalty to you– and work as hard as they can on days that they’re able. And, isn’t that the best ultimate goal to ask of them? To work as hard as they can on days that they’re able.

Watch for New Tips to Be Added Regularly!


Expert Tip #2

Build a Better Toolbox

Itrauma methodst’s time to stop using yesterday’s strategies with today’s students. The tools you learned in your university training may not have kept up at all with the changes in children and adolescents over the years. If you truly want to offer trauma-informed teaching, it’s past time to expand your bag of tricks. Here are two free resources on our website to expose you to a broad array of updated, state-of-the-art trauma-sensitive strategies.

The first place to go to upgrade both your understanding and skills as it relates to K-12 students and trauma, is our expert articles on the topic. Read through the articles listed under “Mental Health” near the top of the page.

The second pace to go to upgrade your intervention strategies to better fit students who may be facing trauma, mental health concerns, crises or similar, is to get acquainted with more updated methods that were specifically created to work with this population. While these methods will not be appropriate for other populations, they are ideal for students who are struggling with current or past trauma, or have other similar types of issues. To view updated methods that are trauma-informed, look through our Free Worksheets page. You will find hundreds of leading edge, trauma-sensitive strategies, along with methods for other populations as well. It is a great way to get a feel for the newest and best trauma-informed intervention methods, and in addition, you will see approaches for other populations.

Watch for New Tips to Be Added Regularly!


trauma informed methods