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Back to School: Around the World with Trauma-Informed Education

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In classrooms full of children all around the world there are those who are studious, eagerly raising their hands, excited to learn, and remaining focused with ease. In those same classrooms, there are children overstimulated by what they see outside, who missed breakfast, or who didn’t sleep well the night before. 

One classroom, 25 different stories, different beginnings to the day, and one teacher to manage each emotion, outburst, breakdown, and correct answer.

The reality of many classrooms is that disruption will occur, children will be overstimulated, and teachers don’t always have the solutions to manage an entire room’s emotions.

Trauma competency is one way Back2Back addresses these concerns within the context of education. Every staff member, caregiver, tutor, and volunteer who serves with Back2Back goes through Trauma Competent Care training. We know one billion children in the world experience trauma, and that it affects everything – brain development, body and biology, belief systems, behavior, and relationships. But it doesn’t have to end there. Through intentional training, safe adults who become trauma-trained help children and teens heal as they work toward breaking intergenerational trauma. Over the last 25 years, as we’ve partnered with nationals, providing tutoring, and ensuring each child had access to true, holistic care, we realized trauma-informed care couldn’t just be in the home, it needed to be in the classroom, too.

In 2018, Back2Back’s Mazatlan site opened the ministry’s first trauma-informed school. Pacific Christian Academy (PCA) was started to support teens with traumatic pasts. Staff saw that when in traditional school environments, students weren’t receiving the help they needed – not because teachers didn’t want to, but because they didn’t have the resources to pull from. Trauma competent care principles are a key part of the curriculum at PCA, and teachers use play with a purpose, as well as emotional check-in meters to better understand where each student is emotionally at any given point. PCA was the first Back2Back-run, trauma-informed school, but it wouldn’t be the last.

In 2019, Back2Back India’s site broke ground on the Living Tree Discovery School. Originally planned for predominantly preschool-aged children, staff realized the negative impacts COVID had on educational progression for the older children. They knew hands-on instruction would allow higher educational opportunities to be more obtainable.

The school is located on the Back2Back-run Suzuki Samuel Hope Campus and will eventually be a trauma-informed, educational home to three levels of preschool and first through tenth grade. Each child who lives on campus full-time will attend, and the school is also an option for children in three surrounding villages. 

Each teacher and staff member will be trauma-informed, allowing classroom environments to be safe spaces for debriefing and learning simultaneously. The Living Tree Discovery School will officially open its doors for the 2022-2023 school year.

In May, 2022, Back2Back’s Nigeria site broke ground on a long-held, 13-year dream of building and operating their own trauma-informed school. After years of investing in local relationship and growing resources, children, staff, and locals gathered to break ground on the new K-12 Great Oaks Academy.

With plans to open the school in January of 2023, Great Oaks Academy will provide trauma-informed education to all children served by Back2Back, as well as children from neighboring villages. This will allow dedicated staff to have an increased amount of time with the children they serve on a day-to-day basis. The construction of the school is providing jobs to nationals and will continue to do so once the school is open, through janitorial, cooking, and maintenance positions.

In classrooms full of children all around the world there are those who are studious, eagerly raising their hands, excited to learn, and remaining focused with ease. In those same classrooms, there are children overstimulated by what they see outside, who missed breakfast, or who didn’t sleep well the night before. 

One classroom, 25 different stories, different beginnings to the day, and one teacher to manage each emotion, outburst, breakdown, and correct answer.

In many classrooms around the world, this is an overwhelming fact for educators, but for teachers and children in Mazatlan, India, and Nigeria, the classroom will be a safe haven. One where children can come as they are and, no matter what has transpired in their lives outside of school, will be met with grace, understanding, and proactive, safe adults who know exactly how to help them succeed.



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