Before I get too far into this blog post, I need to give credit to Chris Smeaton who shared his concept of ‘Failing Forward’ a few years ago when he was Superintendent of an Alberta school division. He has since retired, but is still influential in the educational field. Chris is a quality person who believes in the possible — a leader who builds a culture of risk taking and emotional support — someone who embraces the idea of failure being a springboard to better things.
Our conversation was about 3 years ago at a conference table. I loved the visual imagery of his ‘failing forward’ message.
Even if you’re experiencing a temporary pause in your momentum, you can still move forward if you’re supported and encouraged, but not if you’re condemned for your mistake during your exploration of something new.
This post is about TRAUMA and how it affects us – all of us — whether we’ve experienced it ourselves or we know someone who has lived it.
I am by no means an expert on the topic, but as I have done dozens of times in my blog, I search out those who are expert and lean on their wisdom. The topic of trauma resonates with me — as a lived experience within my family, as a district leader, but more importantly, simply as a human being who is seeking to understand others and what they may be experiencing.
TRAUMA is often misunderstood — and sometimes not even considered as the possible underpinnings of a child’s behaviour. In education, we continue to explore trauma, how it can affect the classroom experience, and how we respond to it. We refer to this reflection and action as Trauma Informed Practice.
I am hoping that today’s information might make you pause and reflect on an observed behavior that seems odd or misplaced — that you might instead take the path of seeking understanding.
The reality is that trauma affects all of us at some point in our lives — whether we’ve experienced it or seen it in others. When it does happen — how it affects us today and how it may affect us tomorrow can be different. This is another reminder to me that, as educators of children who may have experienced trauma, we need to remember that there is always a story behind the behaviour — whether it is trauma based or not.
So, when we see something that does not appear to fit, let’s pause and ask ourselves some questions:
Why do their actions seem out of step within the present context?
Why do they appear elevated / withdrawn / emotional / quiet / angry / sad?
Is there something I am doing that may be contributing to their current expression?
Am I being aware and present to the possibility that at this moment they may be having emotional responses grounded in traumatic experiences?
Every year at this time I like to write a blog post to acknowledge our teachers — both past and present — for the incredibly important work that they do in our schools for students and their families.
We all remember our own time in school. For me, and for many others, what made school great were the teachers who showed up every day to be with us. Sure, sometimes the subject matter content was fun, but more importantly it was the teacher at the front of the room who made the difference.
I have many fond memories of my teachers — most of them were amazing — truly caring individuals who wanted what was best for me. Today, I want to talk about Mr. Polukoshko. I mentioned him briefly in my post back in 2017, but for some reason, I feel the need to express my thanks about him again today.