When trauma hinders learning

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DONALD A. BARR (barr@stanford.edu) is a professor (teaching) of pediatrics and (by courtesy) education, Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.


  • karla heinrich

    This article was a complete waste of time. I have been to many workshops and read many articles about the brain and the trauma some children suffer, however I never hear ways for the teacher to cope, let alone teach his/her class. Then to add insult to injury your statement “The way a kindergarten teacher responds to a child who exhibits poor EF and disruptive behavior can have a powerful negative impact on the child’s own investment in the educational process”. Why does Mr. Barr assume that the teacher is having a negative impact rather than a positive one? The kindergarten teachers I have supervised and worked with are among the most positive and understanding teachers I know! Childhood trauma comes straight from their home or social environment, that is true – but teachers cannot take the place of parents and parenting can’t be legislated! Until that is figured out I guess all teachers and administrators can do is identify the problem and learn coping skills themselves.

    • B. Bacchiocchi

      You should probably look into the work of Jessica Minahan and Nancy Rappaport. Their book The Behavior Code: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Most Challenging Students, is a great resource to gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the traumatized and/or the acting out student. They also published a companion book full of helpful resources for educators to use in the classroom to track and help this population with behavior and personal experiences that impact learning. An educator doesn’t need to respond in a negative manner to have a negative effect on a child dealing with trauma, more often than not and in my own experience working in the classroom with this population, it can be the most positive and supportive educator who misreads the behavior and therefore creates an unintended result.

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