Jennifer De Lapp
How Seeing through Lenses versus Applying Labels Empowers Educators and Students
Alex Shevrin Venet reminds us that trauma is a lens not a label. The importance of looking at trauma through a lens versus using trauma as one more label is very clear when observing the harm caused by stereotypes attributed to labels assigned to human beings. This harm is more disturbing when early damage is caused by the restrictive and erroneous beliefs, biases, and assumptions associated with the labels assigned to children and youth by every level of society and in education.
Research shows consistently that students perform according to their teachers’ expectations and for traumatized students, providing the appropriate relational support to meet those expectations is just as necessary. Prepared teachers can offer sufficient and precise supports to their students to meet their high expectations.
Trauma-sensitive approaches require changing educators’ narratives, or the stories they tell themselves about how students learn and the etiology of student behaviors. Opening teachers’ perspectives to other possible explanations for barriers to learning and challenging behaviors increases teachers’ effectiveness. Educators’ ability to walk in the shoes of their students may be limited by personal experience, but increased knowledge and awareness, and empathy and connection can assist teachers in understanding their students’ perspectives.