Education News

Houston Teachers Learn How to Deal with Trauma in the Classroom

Teachers said that they’re concerned many of their students in poorer communities already dealt with emotional stress even before Harvey devastated their neighborhoods.

While some Houston teachers wait for their schools to reopen, they have been able to receive professional development and gather classroom supplies this week.
While some Houston teachers wait for their schools to reopen, they have been able to receive professional development and gather classroom supplies this week.

Some Houston teachers are still heading to class, even as they wait for their schools to be repaired and reopen because of damage from Harvey. One special class this week: a crash-course in how to deal with trauma in the classroom.

One of the first questions teachers were asked there was how many of them were feeling guilty.

“And I was like, ‘Oh man! It hit me so hard, because I felt a lot of guilt, watching people on TV, and a lot of times I would shed tears,” said Jay Andrews, who teaches eighth grade English.

H said his home survived the flood just fine. But not his school, Forest Brook Middle in Northeast Houston where he grew up. And not hundreds of families who send their children there.

“We want to get them back on their feet and it’s like a family thing because we’re displaced too,” said Andrews, who is currently scheduled to head back to school Sept. 25.

The trauma training was part of a week-long series of professional development for teachers in the Houston Independent School District, which was held at the Kingdom Builders’ Center in Southwest Houston.

His fellow Forest Brook teacher, Devin Pollard, said that it’s important to remember many of their students were already dealing with stress in their lives, even before Harvey flooded much of Houston.

“Not only do our kids have to deal with emotional stressors from what they went through with Hurricane Harvey, but it’s compounded on top of what they already go through,” he said.

Pollard said that they learned how to recognize subtle signs of emotional stress — like facial expressions —  and realized that those signs can show up weeks, or even months after the storm.

Ashley Theobalds, who teaches art at Key Middle School, said that she’s already planning to do some art therapy projects with students when they start next Monday, Sept. 18.

She’s planning to ask students to draw, and also to show them photographs from the storm and ask them to tell stories about them.

“From that experience, you can see if students need a one-on-one with the counselor, or maybe they need extra time,” Theobalds said. “It’s also about building relationships … Building relationships with them in the start will foster that sense of family, which we all kind of are.”

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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