Lightbulb Moment

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog - Dr. Bruce Perry

Chapter 2 - For Your Own Good

In chapter 2, Dr. Perry writes about the responses of traumatized children and how they are often misinterpreted. I found the discussion around what is “normal” to youth who have been through trauma a lightbulb moment for me as a teacher. For example, many times the homes of traumatized youth are chaotic and unpredictable and when these youth are in a calm and safe situation, such as a school and classroom, they are actually fearful. Because of this fear, some youth may behave defiantly and destructively in an effort to recreate the environments that they are used to. Traumatized youth may be used to such things as screaming and harsh discipline and they feel more comfortable with what is familiar to them.

lightbulb moment

Cue lightbulb moment! Over the years, teaching middle school, I have taught students who I know have lived, and in some cases, are living traumatic, chaotic lives. More often that not, these students are disruptive, loud, have difficulty following directions, and rarely complete school work. Many of them display symptoms consistent with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and/or Oppositional Defiant Disorder, however, their behaviours are actually a result of the trauma that they have endured and not a disorder. Teachers cannot ignore these behaviours and what ends up happening is that the student is disciplined. At times, a teacher may reach the point of frustration where their voice raises and they feel provoked by the student which results in an escalated, chaotic situation; just what the student wants whether they know it or not.

It is crucial for teachers to understand and be aware of the students in their classrooms who have a history of trauma . Teachers must cultivate strong relationships with these students and give them a chance in the classroom setting. This requires adjusting expectations. Teachers must consider empathy and acceptance as well, and help all of our students learn alongside each other.