How to Help a Traumatized Child in the Classroom – Joyce Dorado, Vickyi Zakrzewski
“The Body Keeps the Score” by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk
Of course, the comparison that Dorado and Zakrewski provide between the grooves within the brains of students who can’t “rely on a close caregiver for comfort and safety” to the damaged grooves of a vinyl record causing it to skip. Beyond all of the tips and steps that they provide throughout their relatively brief article, however, I still suggest that the most important thing that a teacher can do for student going through the ringer is to make them feel valued enough to fill a seat within the classroom, but most importantly by YOU, the teacher.
Make them feel as if their presence makes a difference. Like a vinyl record, once scratched, you’re scratched. No tampering with that, and no one wants to replace their original pressing of Comus’ ‘First Utterance’ … no way! Just like that specific pressing of that record, each student is far too rare.
This is why all of the formulaic and “kind and compassionate” niceness that they present falls on dominantly deaf ears to me. The Kolk article did even less for me because of all its dense psychology. Psychology was never my thing; to me it just boils down to calculated explanations of the the abstract nuances of the human experience. I like my abstractness to “go dreamy” (to quote Papa David Lynch). This may not seem very teacher-like of me, trust me I’ve studied it all and studied it all well, but I think its more important to present my perspective as the kind of student-range that these texts are getting at.
Or, at least, as close to such as I can recall. I’ll do my best.
Everyone is different, I know, and I have not been diagnosed with any sort of traumatic (x), so I apologize for any insincerity or ignorance expressed on my part.I didn’t like any of that sort of overly-apologetic Robin Williams-type of stuff when I was a student, and nor did the sorts of students that I was cool with. It always seemed condescending and position-based (“I’m the teacher, you’re the student” sort of dialogue, my friends and I much preferred to talk to teachers as we all were. As human beings).
Ala, such methodology-based dialogue made me feel more dissociated that I already was, to whatever extent, as if I was more of a problem to nurture rather than someone that a teacher legitimately wanted to guide or uplift.
For all of its technical psychological density, the Kolk article did pull my attention in stating that “traumatized people simultaneously remember too little and too much.” Once again, this is not to claim that I was super traumatized or anything, but things happened, and things lingered. This reminded me of all the times that I would vent for entire class periods to the teachers that made me feel like I belonged, and cared enough to listen.
Did every problem have an answer that my teachers were capable of delivering? No, so them asking me “what’s the matter” in a contrived manner never really came about (from the GOOD teacher’s, that is). Maybe a call to meet them in the hallway and a whispered “what the fuck!?” here and there. I don’t suggest that coin of phrase, specifically, but I think it’s important for teacher’s to speak the language that they share with their students.
Rather, they would just allow me the comfortability to vent. In a way, they were also enabling me to think more critically, not academically but environmentally, in regards to my own life. When they would chime in it was often to provide me with stories and experience from their own lives that maybe weren’t even directly related to the problem that I held at hand, but fit the emotions that I was conveying.
Sometimes they would even play a song that had a warm note or a cacophonous wall of noise that they knew would hit my cathartic bitter spot. Point is, they were showing me a vulnerability and openness that made me feel like I was valuable enough to get better.
Now, perhaps my own teaching experience may hinder my ability to view things from that outside perspective and role that a teacher technically HAS to portray within a classroom. I only ever taught high school during the whole online COVID-era, so most of the students present that I taught were never actually present. My perspective here is, admittedly, likely skewered. In some cases I’m certain that those kind of formulaic methodologies are most appropriate, and that not every student is like I was.
Some of them might crave that forced niceness that repulsed my edge-boy self as a teen, but I think that student sensibilities are far more case-by-case.
Still, I don’t know if I can ever fully side with boiling something as complex as emotions and trauma to a “How To” guide or psychological jargon over a sincere attempt to understand the experience that a student is uniquely going through. That’s like serving as a human representation of artificial intelligence, you’re just stripping away the soul away from the human experience, that inexplicable quality that abstractly connects us.
Can an AI help in saying the appropriate things? I assume so.
Can it predictably boil down the psychology behind whatever issue is at hand? Better than I can!
Can it out-impact the most pivotal trauma-dump sessions that I shared with my favorite teachers as a student? Most doubtful.