The clipboard had two tasks on it: reading to the children every day and teaching
the nine children who had not mastered the task of tying their shoelaces. He read
to the kindergarten class each lunch period, which they loved.
The teacher reported with surprise and pride that when this boy walked down
the hall, the other students there would walk as close to the walls as possible to
avoid connecting with him, while her kindergartners would run up to him with
hugs. The boy’s behavioral change was not exhibited in any other place within or
outside the building, as he felt secure only in the kindergarten classroom with the
teacher he trusted.
What Children with Unprocessed Trauma Need
from Their Teachers
Trauma-informed teachers and schools recognize that all children need
emotional and physical security in order to learn, and this security is abso-
lutely critical for students who are experiencing traumatic stress. Children
who have experienced trauma need time to trust that they will always be
respected and never shamed or rejected. Ideally, this means that students
should not experience threats when an educator or other school staff per-
son is with them—in their classrooms, in the cafeteria, on the playground,
or on the bus. Solid, trusting relationships between all students and staff
increase learning and reduce behavioral issues. Relationships are more
essential for students than any other part of education—more than laptops
or other electronic hardware, which are often seen as important by the
community (Cozolino 2013).
Moreover, trauma-informed educators understand that many troubling
behaviors are caused by fear and stress. They are clear in their under-
standing that troubling behaviors are stress behaviors, not intentional
misbehaviors (Brendtro, Mitchell, and McCall 2009; Levine and Kline
2007; Perry 2004). This is a critical aspect of trauma-informed education.
An urban kindergarten class had several children with severe behavior issues stem-
ming from a lack of attachment and profound insecurity or trauma—these children
repeatedly talked about suicide. The explosive actions and screams of these stu-
dents shocked and scared the entire class, and learning shut down. Some classmates
voiced their discomfort, and the teacher called a class meeting about the issue.
24 Chapter Two