“You don’t have to tell her… she lived it,” mentioned the nurse at the school for emotional and behavioral students where I was once an assistant principal. I went through so much with those kids and the staff years ago. My university students at Robert Morris University have heard the tales the schizophrenic student who hurled shoes at my head, the boy who walked the streets of Chicago with his mother who was a prostitute, and the child who shoved a pair of scissors straight through a fellow teacher’s hand out of anger. However, until they visited my former work place today, I don’t think they truly understood what I had been describing in class.
I recalled a brief opening of the school year speech I did there almost a decade ago. Standing in front of the large staff on the hill in the outdoor classroom on the over three hundred acres of land, I threw a crumbled piece of paper in the can, and talked about the task ahead of us. Later in the talk, I pulled the paper back out open and smoothed it out revealing that the wrinkled sheets of paper had children’s first names on it. Many of the 200 children from first to twelfth grade had been abused, in trouble with the law, or inflicted pain on themselves because of past hurts. I explained that many of our children at the school had been thrown away by society and that it was up to us to pick them up, and think of them as individual children and meet their needs so they could be educated.
Today, I was delighted that the school continues to flourish. They have adopted the Sanctuary Model ® that according to Healing Magazine, “...focuses on addressing the traumas in clients’ lives that have led them into residential treatment.” It looks at:
Seven commitments that serve as goals for resolving trauma-based issues:
2. Emotional Intelligence
3. Social Learning
4. Social Responsibility
5. Shared Governance
6. Open Communication
7. Growth and Change
When I was an administrator, I used to do yoga or visualization exercises in my office with the students who had been emotionally triggered. My future teachers and I liked that now every child, teacher, and even administrator had badges with five things that they could do to calm themselves down while experiencing a frustrating event (e.g., quiet time at the computer). Also, the sensory room for the autistic children was impressive and allows for the upset child to experience some peaceful time while deescalating. Here are my university students chilling out in the sensory room...
Shawna tried out the swing that is utilized by the school's autistic students that was purchased by a grant.
Sarah witnessed how soothing some of the other sensory room tools such as the light displays can be for students.
It was wonderful to get the hugs of people whom I haven’t worked with in eight years and to see that this school continues to lift up and help children who were once thrown away by society. No child should ever be given up on; all children have something to give back to the world whether they are a non-verbal autistic child or child who is acting out due to past trauma. Treasure our children.