Teaching and Trauma

By Sherrill Rayford

Dr. Rayford, a former high school English teacher, joined Kappa Delta Pi in college. She is a volunteer reviewer of KDP teaching scholarships. She facilitates a devotional group, and is an English adjunct. Her memoir, Teaching: Yakima Ball Vignettes, was published in 2019.

As a novice teacher, peers overwhelmed me with well-meaning advice: “Don’t smile until Christmas.” “Join the union.” “Never give your phone number to parents.”

The advice was often humorous, but I learned attributes of effective teaching from experienced colleagues. However, none of the mentors predicted trauma as an aspect of teaching.

The trauma I describe develops from events or mindsets that impact students’ ability to focus on learning, especially the acceptance of shortened lives or insignificance in society. Too many students I taught believed that they would not live for 18 years. They focused on repetitive violent treatment in society or traumatic incidents they experienced or witnessed in their neighborhoods. During a class discussion, I respectfully disagreed with a student who voiced the expectation that he, at age 16, would not live to be 18. I thought of my sons and the personal dreams I envisioned for them. I imagined those dreams for him, but prior events in his life made me understand why he accepted a shortened lifespan. After the discussion, I realized the significance of the artistically decorated “In Memorial” jackets students, the “In Memorial” tattoos on students’ arms and legs, and I began to ask for details of loved ones portrayed in the obituary programs students shared after attending funerals.

After 9/11, I read that teachers dutifully returned to school after traumatic events; however, that dedication may have limits. At times an administrative directive dictates how teachers should console students’ expressed trauma. For example, a student teacher I supervised was emotionally upset by a principal’s directive to forbid Black students from posing questions or discussing protests that occurred in the summer of 2014. The traumatic incident was partially aired through social media in real time. That same traumatic incident was fresh in the minds of students and staff in 2015 when I retired from the Ferguson–Florissant School District.

During a Kappa Delta Pi conference session in 2018, I posed the question, “How do you teach empathy when it is not in vogue?” Only the novice teacher seated near me responded, by sharing her email address, a website containing empathetic teaching strategies, the title of a “wonderful” book she read in a college course, and that she worked a few weeks in an urban school. I listened respectfully, but the explanation reminded me of the Justice Department’s professional development session I was required to attend in the aftermath of the 2014 protests. There are aspects of teaching best shared by listening rather than telling.

As inequality in living conditions, fear, actions or inactions from important leaders, curfews, Black Lives Matter protests, and COVID-19 trauma dominate since the summer of 2020, teachers will instruct students in remote or in-school locations with residual memories of the pandemic and its impact on spring instruction. Now more than ever, teachers must be mindful of how culturally connected traumatic events, an ongoing reality in education, impact teachers and learners.

Environment As the Third Teacher

DoctorIsIn

Dear Dr. P.,

I am excited about my new classroom, but I’m feeling completely overwhelmed looking at the bare walls and thinking about how I’m going to make the classroom come to life and be organized for the students. Any suggestions?

Thank you, Classroom Setup Crunch


Dear Crunch,

Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of Reggio Emilia preschools, would be enthusiastic about your question. He believed that environment is such an important part of making learning meaningful that he coined the term “environment as the third teacher” (Gandini, 2011).

The Reggio Emilia approach provokes educators to think differently about the aesthetics of a classroom. Instead of purchased “decorations,” students are the creators of the aesthetic through learning. For example, instead of buying an alphabet chart to put at the front of the room, young learners can create one themselves out of sticks found on the playground or materials recycled from another unit. The students not only use the finished chart, but they also engage in an in-depth way by constructing it to make meaning for themselves. Older students can use similar techniques to create a periodic table or an anchor chart.

Student-made alphabet chart adorns the hallway at the IPS/Butler Lab School.

Consider what supplies you can keep out on a regular basis instead of just pulling them out for a short time. You’ll notice this inspires a creative work process. Imagine if you encourage students to use the set of magnifying glasses at recess and beyond! In Reggio Emilia-inspired classrooms, you’ll often see glass jars or recycled storage containers (like baskets) filled with materials for learners’ easy access.

Ms. Marielle Keller’s kindergarten classroom at the IPS/Butler Lab School.

Think about how students move around your class to collaborate. Where are they able to work in small groups? What is the easiest access to supplies without disrupting classmates? At the beginning of the year, have students role-play the appropriate and inappropriate ways to move about the room. This “interactive modeling” also can help you assess what does and does not work. After you’ve built a strong class community, why not give students a chance to redesign the room and think about the ways the classroom can morph and change to support their growing needs?

Lastly, calming spots, relaxation stations, and “amygdala reset areas” are important for students who might need a break for behavior or academic reasons. These areas are usually a soft space away from the busyness of the classroom. They don’t have to be large, just safe spots for kids to take a break in a proactive way.

Lastly, and I know this goes against the grain, but I highly encourage you to not feel pressure to spend money on your classroom environment (although we’ve all done it). From an administrative and community perspective, it gives a false sense of budget needs. Many new teachers have had tremendous success with Donorschoose.org for supplies like pillows and lamps for calming spots. Businesses also have allotted money for school donations and, in many cases, all you must do is fill out a simple form. PTAs and parent groups are also eager to support environment when possible.

Enjoy establishing your new community and your new environment!

Dr. P.

Image result for catherine hagerman panganDr. Pangan, a former elementary teacher and current Professor at Butler University (Indianapolis), loves to help build and support strong, healthy schools. Please send your question for Dr. P. to cpangan@butler.edu.

Reference

Gandini, L. (2011). Play and the hundred languages of children: An interview with Lella Gandini. American Journal of Play, 4(1), 1–18.

Technically Speaking: Ed Tech for the Danielson Domains

Hello, friends! In this issue, I am sharing educational technology tools across the Danielson domains.

TechDanielson

The Danielson domains refer to four domains of teacher responsibility as defined within the Framework for Teaching (www.danielsongroup.org/framework). This is a curated list from preservice teachers at Grove City College, who were tasked with identifying a tech tool for each domain.

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation

Domain 1 focuses on knowing your students beyond the student interest survey, understanding the content area and how to best teach it with evidencebased practices, assessing students’ learning, and ensuring that your content is coherent in sequence and scope.

  • Share My Lesson
  • Teachers Pay Teachers – Find a library of resources created by teachers, for teachers! Edit the lessons for your students’ needs.
  • Planboard – Organize lessons, share documents, track standards, and collaborate with other educators in your district. Record attendance, grades, and observations within this easy-to-use tech tool!

Domain 2: Classroom Environment

Domain 2 is about creating a classroom of respect and rapport among students, and between students and teachers. It is a space where students feel safe to think creatively, solve problems, and collaborate.

  • Classtools – Classtools is an EdTech treasure trove with a QR code creator, random name picker, Fakebook, fake Twitter, and more.
  • Adobe Spark
  • Canva – Don’t buy a motivational poster—make your own! Or better yet, have your students make them and display their work.

Domain 3: Instruction

Domain 3 is the heart of the framework, focusing on engaging students in learning and instruction. It pulls in features of teaching such as assessment, communication, and being a flexible educator.

  • Screencast-O-Matic – Record a lesson or presentation that is easy to share and embed in your class website or LMS.
  • Padlet – Add comments, links, pictures, and videos to this virtual sticky note board.
  • EdPuzzle – Do you want to make sure that students watched the video before class? Try this tool to embed questions into videos.
  • Kahoot
  • Gimkit
  • Socrative – These tools offer fun ways to conduct formative assessments.

Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

Domain 4 relates to the power of reflection. You don’t want to be that teacher who uses the same lessons each year. Shake it up. Ask yourself, what is best for my students? This domain also relates to professional development (PD) and growing as an educator of excellence.

How can you implement educational technology based on the domains? Share your ideas!

Image result for sam fecich grove city collegeDr. Fecich is a former special education teacher and now is Assistant Professor and Instructional Technologist at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. She enjoys connecting with other educators about teacher prep, STEM, augmented reality, and mobile learning. Please send your educational technology questions to Sfecich@gmail.com.