There are many different features of trauma-informed classrooms. In general, trauma-informed instructors maintain a predictable schedule and classroom structure; offer choices for participation that empower students to feel a sense of control over their lives; provide emotional safety by foreshadowing course content that might negatively impact those who have experienced various types of trauma; and use a strengths-based approach to help students affected by trauma recognize their progress within a course. By striving to use trauma-informed teaching practices, instructors can help traumatized students cultivate healthy, positive, trusting relationships.
Core components of trauma-informed classrooms:
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Know your students and suspend judgement
- Don’t assume you know who has/hasn’t been impacted by trauma
- Don’t assume the extent of the trauma
- Don’t assume the reason for the trauma
Understand that trauma manifests in multiple ways
- Don’t label students or unnecessarily advertise their trauma (if shared)
- Don’t judge the trauma or compare it to other traumatic situations
- Don’t take behavior personally (e.g., students who experienced trauma may act out if they feel a loss of control over their life circumstances)
- Be present
- Ask directly how you can help
- Watch for triggers/activators and respond proactively
- Spend time learning about the students you serve
- Be mindful of vicarious trauma