Teachers: Quit Enabling Victims. Empower your students. Change your world.

A teacher has an easy job. She gets to work from 8am-3pm for nine months out of the year. Her lesson plans are within her up to date curriculum in all subject areas; all she has to do is make student work copies. Her students come to school ready to learn with their married parents serving as dedicated partners in education.

This is as much the truth as Santa Claus riding a damn unicorn towards a pot of gold.

Teachers have one of the hardest jobs for more reasons than one. My focus area of this post is trauma-impacted schools.

There has been a recent push in education to inform others that our students are impacted by trauma. If you are a teacher or have volunteered in a school recently, you know that this is true. Students are experiencing abuse, parents on drugs, hunger, post-traumatic stress, and so much more. These traumatic experiences put a delay on student learning due to a lack of skills such as coping, problem solving, and self-confidence.

There is a book titled, “Help for Billy” written by Heather T. Forbes. I learned a great deal about brain development and how each part of the brain is impacted by traumatic experience. I also learned strategies to help “Billy” in the classroom. The whole point of this book was to bring attention to students affected by trauma and to understand that these students do not respond to traditional personal improvement and teaching strategies like the “Andy” of the classroom. The latter portion of the book discussed differing strategies to overcome these difficulties.

While this book was educational for me, “Billy” is not an anomaly; “Andy” is. There are more students exhibiting undesired behavior learned from less than ideal home conditions or in response to circumstance, than there are students who come to school ready and able to learn in the traditional sense.

As educators are becoming more informed and versed in teaching “Billy”, another problem is arising. As a general education teacher, there have been numerous times that I have experienced the following conversation.

            “Billy did not follow the classroom expectations today.”

            “Well, he has a lot going on.”

So the behavior has now been justified. How long will this excuse be validated?

Here is the reality. We are all victims of something. You are. They are. I am. We have all experienced trauma in one way another. We are raising adults, not children. As an adult, I am required to do my job efficiently and I am accountable for my actions. I have experienced trauma in many areas of my life but have learned and utilized various strategies to help me be a valuable member of society. Excuses like, ”Well, she has a lot going on,” isn’t a valid excuse in the real world. So instead of coddling our students who are impacted by trauma, we should be empowering them. Students will only continue to exhibit these behaviors and continue to be a victim of their experiences if they are not taught how to deal with these situations, and how to handle their own mental state and be able to rise above.

So, my message to teachers around the world is this. Evolve and adapt to our new students, so that you can do your job; but be careful. You need to empower your students. Empower them to overcome their trauma. Empower them to seek and utilize strategies of success. Empower them to be confident in their unique self. If you can empower your students, you can change our world.

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