a great paradigm shift in education for distressed students as well as their
classmates and teachers. As described in chapters 1 and 2, educators can
gain insight into behavioral problems by understanding the neural sci-
ence behind many issues of concern to teachers. These insights afford
teachers a greater capacity for attunement and empathy. Students who are
propelled into the spotlight by their disturbing behaviors tend to be the
most fragile children in their schools. For behavioral interventions to be
effective, educators must acknowledge that the root causes of problematic
behaviors can stem from insecure attachments or traumatic experiences.
This chapter will discuss some ways educators can become more sensi-
tive to children’s traumatic experiences in understanding and addressing
An Example of Trauma-Informed Teaching
I recently participated in an educational research project at an elementary
school titled “Growing the Brain.” This trauma-informed brief project was
based on the notion that an emotionally secure environment with positive
relationships between students and teachers can rewire and reorganize
the brains of stressed children. Our hope was that we could reduce the
emotional, cognitive, and behavioral difficulties of the stressed students.
Our intentions were to keep students within their positive range of self-
regulation throughout the school day.
The goal of this project was to enhance the academic achievement
of all students in the participating classrooms. The staff involved were
teachers from one kindergarten, one first-grade, and one second-grade
classroom, plus behavioral coaches and Title I teachers. They were asked
to integrate a sensory healing activity from the first edition of Making It
Better and other resources into core curriculum assignments once a week.
They were each provided with a copy of the book and received twenty
hours of training.
An activity that became a focus of the K–2 classrooms was the com-
pelling eye and hand rituals from Becky Bailey’s book I Love You Rituals.
Maintaining deep eye contact while gently touching the hands of a child
can stimulate growth and strengthening of the prefrontal cortex, especially
of children that did not have the opportunity to form a solid attachment in
30 Chapter Three