Thanks to teachers who care beyond academics

Most in the working world are familiar with the idea that what is happening at home — what you experienced the night before, a tough problem that has been on your mind — can affect your performance at work in the morning. Kids do not have it any easier; and in fact, far too many Mid-Ohio Valley children are experiencing traumas outside their time at school that many adults cannot imagine.

“The trauma is daily,” said Mike Masloski, superintendent of Ridgewood Local School District in Coshocton, “like a first-grader who saw his father use a belt to drag his mother through the street.”

Masloski was part of a panel hosted by Marietta College Tuesday to discuss the concept of trauma-informed schools — a strategy in which ALL adults in a school are trained to help meet the needs of the whole child. If they do not feel safe, calm and accepted, children will have difficulty learning. If they act out, the symptoms of their trauma might affect the other students in the class, who might then also struggle.

“These kids have unmet needs, and if we don’t meet their social and emotional needs, we’ll never get to the academic things,” Masloski said.

One example was given by Megan Miller, principal of Beverly-Center Elementary School:

“We have kids who have spent the night sitting in a closet with the light on. They haven’t slept all night,” she said. “We need a place where three or four kids can sleep.”

Masloski emphasized the need for every adult in the school to receive training in helping traumatized kids — from the bus driver to the secretaries.

“We had one kid who would go see the custodian when he wanted to feel better,” he said. “And for some reason he loved running the dry mop up and down the hallway.”

Thank goodness there are so many wonderful adults in our school systems willing to take on the hard work of healing AND educating these children. Evaluation of teachers does not yet include a measure of how well they have developed relationships with students that improve their mental and physical wellbeing enough to make them receptive to academic work.

But Miller had a parting message for teachers who find their jobs getting more difficult each year:

“If you are not determined to be the best, pick another profession. Don’t do it. Find something different,” she said.