Helping everyone understand how past trauma affects children and impedes learning is the goal of trauma informed schools.
Carrie Jost, an occupational therapist, never thought that her dream job at a charter school would be traumatizing. But as she regularly saw frustrated teachers yell at students, she felt she had to get away. She would retreat to her office, turn off the light, and cry.
“I didn’t realize what was wrong with me,” Jost said. “I didn’t realize I was getting triggered.”
After getting therapy, she realized that she had post-traumatic stress from trauma that had not been recognized in her childhood. She was experiencing that trauma all over again, witnessing the yelling. Now she is happily employed with St. Louis Public Schools and openly shares her story.
Many educators believe that establishing trauma informed schools will have a profound effect. Some results are as simple as lowering voices or taking a step back physically. Some involve giving a threatening student a pass to a quiet room, rather than a suspension.
“You can’t just teach a child when they have experienced things that most of the people in this room can’t imagine,” said University City schools Superintendent Sharonica Hardin. “And yet, schools have historically been forced to navigate these issues with no support.”