Trauma, Treatment, & Teaching

Several years ago, I started teaching at a public school housed in a treatment facility for young adults recovering from physical and sexual abuse, drug addiction, and trauma of every sort. Before this, I taught for a decade at a public alternative school.

When I started teaching there, I was introduced to a network of schools hidden in plain sight: schools in hospitals, detention centers, treatment facilities, transitional housing campuses, and rehabilitation centers. These programs serve our most vulnerable populations. Often teachers in these settings are isolated, teaching across grade levels, and attempting to reach highly transient populations.

I'm an English teacher and am passionate about literacy. Most of my students come from homes that are text deserts. They were not read to as children and rarely had access to books. They experienced trauma that impacted their brain development in a myriad of ways. And often, their lives in foster care and treatment meant that they were uprooted and relocated multiple times: new homes, new schools. I've known several kiddos that had been in more than 15 placements over three years. Many confide in me that they've never owned a book of their own. Ever.

There are many travesties in this world. Horrors and tragic circumstances beyond imagination. However, I firmly believe that literacy can help kids cope with and transcend their trauma. Victor Hugo wrote, "One who opens a school door, closes a prison." Let us open doors in our student's minds and hearts through the love of literacy.