This post was published by MAC’s Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, a collaboration with Harvard Law School whose mission is to ensure that children impacted by family violence and other adverse childhood experiences succeed in school. Click here to see the original post.

Video on the Impact of Trauma on Learning Part 2: Classroom Behavior

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We hope your school year is off to a successful start!  As students and teachers return to their schools, the work of creating trauma sensitive safe and supportive learning environments continues. In this post, we share the second in our three part series of short videos on the impacts of trauma on learning: academics, classroom behavior and relationships.  Last month, we introduced the first in this series of short videos featuring TLPI training director, Joel M. Ristuccia, Ed.M., speaking about the impact of trauma on learning, Part 1: Academic Performance.

This week we share Part 2 in the series, wherein the impact of trauma on classroom behavior is explored. Our hope is that these videos are used to help school staff learn together to build a shared understanding of the  impacts of trauma.  This shared understanding can help all staff- educators, administrators, counselors, schools nurses, paraprofessional staff, cafeteria staff, custodians, bus drivers, athletic coaches- recognize that adverse experiences in the lives of students are exceedingly common (please see prevalence video) and that the impacts of these traumatic experiences on child development can play a major role in the learning, behavioral and relationship difficulties faced by many students. While we may not know whether a student’s behavioral difficulties are related to traumatic experience, sharing an understanding of the impact of trauma on student behavior helps educators avoid  misunderstanding the reasons underlying some student’s difficulties with behavior and helps educators plan effective responses. Please view the video below.


Childhood Trauma and Classroom Behavior:

For many children who have experienced traumatic events, the school setting can feel like a battleground in which their assumptions of the world as a dangerous place sabotage their ability to remain calm and regulate their behavior in the classroom. Unfortunately, many of these children develop behavioral coping mechanisms in an effort to feel safe and in control, yet these behaviors can frustrate educators and evoke exasperated reprisals, reactions that both strengthen the child’s expectations of confrontation and danger and reinforce a negative self-image.

Many of the effects of traumatic experiences on classroom behavior originate from the same problems that create academic difficulties: the inability to process social cues and to convey feelings in an appropriate manner. This behavior can be highly confusing, and children suffering from the behavioral impacts of trauma are often profoundly misunderstood. Whether a child who has experienced traumatic events externalizes (acts out) or internalizes (withdraws, is numb, frozen, or depressed), a child’s behavioral response to traumatic events can lead to lost learning time and strained relationships with teachers and peers.

Below we offer a few ideas for discussion questions to be used with this video:

  • What are a few key take-aways ?
  • Which students are you thinking about?
  • What happens to students who are misunderstood in school?

Please look for our subsequent video on the Impact of Trauma on Learning Part 3: Relationships coming next week.