ears, and ran screaming from his room into the hall. His teacher later learned his
family home had burned during the past summer.
Seeming Inability to Hear Words
Perhaps one of the most frustrating experiences for teachers is when a
student defies the rules. Often teachers interpret a student’s inability to
hear and understand consequences as defiance, which adds to a teacher’s
frustrations (Perry 2004). For instance, a second-grade teacher is moving
her class into the hall on their way to lunch. The teacher sternly reminds
the class of the hallway rules: no pushing or running. Within one minute,
the second boy in line pushes the boy ahead of him aside and runs toward
the cafeteria. After the teacher catches up to him, she protests, “What
were you thinking? You know the rules!”
Although this may seem logical, another possible explanation is that
the student didn’t hear his teacher’s words or the rules because they were
accompanied by a stern facial expression and a harsh voice. He responded
with a survival reaction activated by the tone of voice and facial expres-
sion. Upon hearing and seeing what he interpreted to be a threat, the stu-
dent’s oversensitive brain quickly shifted into preparation for a perceived
threat. If the child heard any words in his emergency state, he heard “push-
ing and running,” and that’s what he did. But the boy could not express
his fear in words, and when he was unable to offer any explanation for his
actions, his teacher very naturally considered him defiant. This is not an
excuse for the unacceptable behavior but is a possible explanation for the
evidence presented (Perry 2004; Schore 2009). Remember that the child
isn’t the problem.
A third grader in an urban elementary school was unanimously labeled the worst
child in the building. During lunch, the entire multipurpose room was in turmoil
due to his total lack of self-regulation.
The all-day kindergarten teacher’s room was next to the multipurpose room,
and her class took their trays to their classroom to eat in order to avoid the chaos.
The principal asked the teacher if this boy could also eat his lunch in her room to
reduce the chaos in the cafeteria.
What could she say? The next day at noon, when she heard a knock at her
door, she picked up a clipboard, opened the door, and said with a smile, “Welcome!
I have been asking for an assistant teacher since September, and here you are!”
COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Early Traumatic Stress