Students should not be penalized in the classroom for past trauma

Teachers typically like to think of their classrooms as a safe environment for students to learn and have a place to be able to express themselves. They believe that their classrooms foster healthy mental interactions. This isn’t always the case, though.

What some teachers fail to acknowledge when deciding what assignments students will be responsible for is that some material could be considered sensitive to different individuals in their classroom. This material should come with some sort of “trigger warning,” but unfortunately, this doesn’t happen all that often. In some cases, students are left with severe mental repercussions all because of an assignment.

Everyone has a past in some way. Our lives aren’t perfect, and some lives are worse than others, but we all carry our own emotional baggage. Teachers aren’t expected to know what each individual student is going through or has gone through. They should, however, know enough to be sensitive about certain subjects.

Students have different backgrounds and life experiences, and some may be out in the open and some may be private. These experiences should not have to limit or mentally damage the students who have gone through significant traumas in their past. Teachers should preface assignments that might trigger bad thoughts in individuals who have experienced traumatic life events.

Students are young and still developing mentally and physically. They aren’t going to go up to their teachers at the beginning of the year and tell them their life story and give a warning of what might upset them. There are just some things that are too uncomfortable to talk about, and sometimes the trauma is so severe that it hurts to talk or even hear about. Teachers should take note of this, and adjust their teaching to accommodate.

Assignments that mainly english teachers, but sometimes teachers of other subjects, assign for class often bring up hard topics for people to talk about. This is especially true if a student happens to have a connection with a certain topic that occurred in their past, or even something that is currently happening.

The most common topics that teachers need to be more courteous about and thoughtful of are those including domestic violence, physical assault, sexual assault and suicide. Just one word related to any of these can set someone off emotionally.

When teaching a lesson or reading a book that may hit on any of these topics, teachers should recognize the possibility of a student being in their class who has dealt with something similar in their past, and that they might still be struggling with the effects of it.

Teachers need to think about the effects that their lesson might have on their potential struggling student, and work with a student, if they speak out about how it is hurting them. Attending a class where that topic is being talked about could make things worse for them mentally.

When giving out an assignment, teachers also need to strongly consider the effect that a reading may have on a student. If a student reaches out asking for a different assignment because the current one is making things harder for them mentally, then the teacher should work something out to give them an alternative assignment. These students should get the same opportunities as the rest of the class without having to struggle with inner thoughts that are hurting them. A student’s grade does not deserve to suffer at the hands of a traumatic past experience.

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