In New York, as virtually everywhere, many children face significant adversity in their lives, including abuse, neglect, and all types of household or community instability. For some, chronic or acute exposure to adversity results in trauma, which affects just about every domain in which children function, and which can inhibit their ability to learn and develop. Further, there is a high level of correlation among children’s experiences with adversity, their education attainment, and their involvement in the justice system.
How trauma affects children may be readily observable, though not always readily understandable, to the adults who care for them. Children who have experienced a traumatic event may “view the world as a perilous place and [be] prone to fear.” Their coping mechanisms may be evident in externalized behaviors, such as acting out or being aggressive, or in internalized behaviors, such as withdrawing or daydreaming. Such behavioral responses can lead to lost learning time and can adversely affect relationships with adults and with peers. Children who have a history of trauma may also be unable to process social cues and to self-regulate emotions or behaviors.
The good news is that neuroplasticity — the brain’s ability to learn, adapt, and become more resilient — serves as a mechanism for healing from trauma. This article explores how education systems can support that healing, and it offers a few ways that education leaders can bolster trauma-informed practices in their schools, classrooms, and underlying systems.
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New Teacher Center is dedicated to improving student learning by accelerating the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders. NTC builds capacity within districts and district partners to drive student learning, teacher effectiveness, and teacher and leadership development. NTC does this by providing PreK-12 teachers and school leaders with the skills and supports needed to create optimal learning environments that accelerate students’ academic and social emotional success.
According to the nonprofit organization Student Debt Crisis, our collective student debt as a nation is currently at $1,740,184,278,148. Education, the theoretical equalizer, has turned into yet another way that deep inequality remains entrenched in our country — as well as a partisan flashpoint. After Bernie Sanders dropped out of the presidential race, Joe Biden announced a proposal for expanded student loan forgiveness in a bid to reel in Sanders supporters. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump vetoed a major student loan forgiveness bill in May, dealing a blow to students who seek debt cancellation because they say colleges defrauded them.