Slice of Life: Subjects of Substance

Lately, my posts have been pretty light. I’ve been thinking about why that is. Most likely it’s because I need to organize these posts before I write them. I need to find the facts to support my case. I need to be firm in my opinions and back them up. And, I just have not invested the time needed to support my own thoughts through writing.

So, I keep marking things. I marked a post on social-emotional learning and trauma centered educational philosophy. Many times over the last five years, I’ve asked what happens if the trauma occurs in our own system, as a result of the system, or person in the system acting in an unsupportive way towards our students? I’ve yet to receive anything other than blank stares – like the person or persons I am talking to do not know what I mean.

But, last week, I read an article in the current issue of Educational Leadership entitled, “How Trauma Informed Are We Really? It was the only piece of literature I’ve seen that speaks to the very question I’ve been asking. What if the student trauma occurs within the institution they attend? Gorski, the author, contends that to truly address the issue of trauma and support students, we must deal with this place, a place we all know, where a trauma might occur. Very often, at least from my perspective as an observant parent and non-formal educator, it is ignored. It definitely should not be, however. I know. It takes along time to get over trauma inflicted in a place of learning. Some might not ever be able to do it. I’m thankful for those who can get past it. I think they are probably rare.

The term “trauma informed” has become the new buzzword in the field of education. It matters not that it is stated by various institutions (this is the easy part), but rather how it is implemented (the hard part). Few will get past the inclusion in documents to the actual examination of how school staff and occurrences are actually causing trauma to some students. It becomes a fine line. It takes time and commitment to examine it.

I’m not teacher bashing here. And, I’ve agreed with the articles that state we should only be supportive of teachers during this time of hardship caused by the pandemic and the implementation of new learning platforms. But, this concern goes to a problem that existed before the pandemic and will continue to exist afterwards. To be truly trauma informed, I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Gorski, the trauma that should be addressed is that which is occurring in our own institutions.

And, then there was the article earlier this week in the Washington Post that asked if segregation of students based on mathematical ability in middle school should stop. I’ve linked this article, as well. Naturally, as a mom who allowed all three of her sons to be mathematically accelerated by a year or more in middle school, I have many (mixed) feelings on this. The one immediate thought I can share is that most students who have advanced abilities in math (or any subject) do not want or benefit from being used as a peer tutor. It might helpful to the teacher and other students but not the student in possession of the advanced skills. Again, I know from my reading that there are articles supportive of my opinion, but I’ve yet to dig them out. Mathematical course acceleration is also a double edged sword. It might fill the need for challenge at the moment but also cause some gaps to form as the material is progressed in a more rapid manner. I really would like to delve into this more, but just need to take the time to do it. There are some misconceptions on the part of educators as well as parents and students about what really happens in accelerated math. I know that while they were successful at the time, two of my three boys state that they would not have elected to be accelerated in math if they could do it all over again (even though their scores supported it). And, as a mom, that makes me feel bad – like I made the wrong choice for (with) them.

Lastly, there was the toolkit for taking learning outside that the Wisconsin DPI has put together that as an environmental educator I was invited to review before it went live. Although the time has come for a toolkit such as this, teachers need the nuts and bolts of how to do it, not just an overview. Since most of my teaching involved the outdoors for a least part of the lesson, I have many, many thoughts and opinions on this as well. Most of these revolve around it not being as “easy” as it sounds. And, of course, we do live in the upper mid-west where it gets very, very cold in the winter.

Yes, there’s a lot to be written but a large part of me feels like it is not the time to be writing about these topics. In general, I’m a huge supporter of educators. I consider myself to be one. And, I strive to be a great one. However, I am also a student advocate and feel that our systems need to be examined for their failings (trauma) and strengths in order to best serve our all of our youth.

Perhaps when the pandemic is over, some of these concerns can be examined and addressed. In the meantime, I’ll gather my resources so I can write about them in a more substantive manner!

Today is Slice of Life Tuesday. It is a weekly forum brought to us by TwoWritingTeachers.org. I thank them and the other writers in the group who lend supportive comments and suggestions about our written topics.

6 Thoughts

  1. Do schools dare to look at how they might have traumatised children? At least the whole topic is not completely pushed under the carpet. I can understand how you wish to delve more into the topic to be able to speak about it. What hit the cord with me was your thought as a mother, about your mixed feelings with the advanced math for your sons.

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    1. I think this is a scary prospect for schools and partially why it is avoided. Staff that act unprofessionally and unsupportively towards students clearly can inhibit the student’s ability to learn, especially if there is fear of retribution involved. I could write a book on our experience with advanced math. I think math acceleration is accepatble and some students (again 2 of my 3) do well with it. But, I think that the consequences of the acceleration need to be more thoroughly explored with both students and parents. I do have to say that we did not experience any problems with other parents or students because of the acceleration. Others do not have the same luck as far as that goes. Thanks for your comments!

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  2. You have taken the plunge, made a deep dive! This line really resonates, “the trauma that should be addressed is that which is occurring in our own institutions.” This is the starting point, I believe. Today’s Washington Post had an insightful article from perspective of a social worker, how invisible many child abuse/neglect situations are now, due to the pandemic. I think, virtual teaching provides some insight, without a doubt, of some of the problems that students are having (big and small) and we need to begin there. We need to be paying attention to what is working, what is not, who are we missing/not reaching.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. For the past three years, I’ve been working with students who are unable to attend school due to debilitating anxiety, and in three of the four students, trauma happened inside the school. This absolutely needs to be addressed. Well done, for gathering your resources and speaking up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I have some work to do on this but do think it is an important issue to explore. Anxiety and how debilitating it can be to learning is among the things that need to be examined. Thank you for being there for those students!

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