We are so grateful that you are here with us to learn more about trauma-responsive pedagogy. Welcome!
Growing poverty and income inequality, combined with the global COVID-19 pandemic, mean that more children are attending school every year who have experienced significant chronic and acute stressors. Educators like you are deeply interested in supporting students, helping them learn, and ensuring that they reach their full potential. Trauma-informed schools are lauded as one way to address this challenge, but the concept can be challenging to define and difficult for teachers to implement, especially on their own. Together, we invite you, our reader, to explore the research and practice of trauma-responsive pedagogy in an easy-to-digest, actionable text that elevates the healing and wellness of both the children and the adults in your classroom.
We met in New Orleans, Louisiana. Arlène was teaching the first children to come to school post–Hurricane Katrina, and Courtney was a founding member of the New Orleans Trauma-Informed Schools Learning Collaborative, which developed and now implements trauma-informed approaches both in New Orleans and nationally. When Arlène’s school participated in the pilot of this initiative, her classroom served as a lab site and model for transformative trauma-informed teaching. She received tools from the Learning Collaborative that supported her in shaping her approach to trauma-responsive pedagogy. Since then, Courtney’s journey has been to gather and share the evidence behind trauma-informed approaches, with a focus on measurement, implementation processes, and outcomes. Arlène’s path has focused on educator training with an emphasis on trauma-responsive pedagogy. We came back together to write this book so we could share our collective knowledge with educators.
This innovative book first describes the challenges of a classroom that does not attend to adversity and trauma, then presents the research on trauma-responsive classrooms, and finally provides a framework to support educators in centering the whole child in their classrooms. We use approachable language, provide examples and anecdotes, and share strategies and lessons. Our goal is for you to pick up, digest, and apply this text with ease.
In this book, we empower you to support children who have experienced adversity and trauma so that they can be successful, both in your classroom and out of it. Just as we hope this book will give you valuable tools to help your students, we also aspire to offer you space and an urgent rationale to care for and love yourself in this work—your empathy, kindness, generosity of spirit, and engagement are exactly what your students, school, and community need to thrive. So, please take a deep and cleansing breath, and feel deeply welcomed to join us for a process of reflection, learning, and growth. We are absolutely certain that your effort will pay dividends.
With love and care as you embark on this most important of journeys,
—Arlène and Courtney
Arlène Elizabeth Casimir is a Brooklyn-based activist, educator, herbalist, healer, and writer. Her experience teaching middle school and elementary school in New York City and New Orleans awakened her purpose of drawing on culturally-sustaining and trauma-responsive teaching practices to nurture the inner genius and inner teacher in others. She founded, designed, and implemented a healing-centered curriculum for her students post-Hurricane Katrina. As a first generation Haitian American, Arlène recognizes the power of community, equity, literacy, and spiritual resilience to help others live with personal integrity, transcend their circumstances, and author their own lives. She enjoys working with teachers, families, schools, and community organizations to do the inner work for socially just outer change. She is currently studying Clinical Psychology and Education with a concentration in Spirituality Mind Body at Teachers College, Columbia University; and leading her educational consultancy, The Awakened Collaborative, LLC where she works as a staff developer and partner to various institutions that are aligned to her mission, vision, and values as an educator.
Dr. Courtney N. Baker is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Tulane University. She is a licensed child clinical psychologist, and she directs the APA-Accredited School Psychology Doctoral Program, the Project DIRECT Early Childhood Consultation Service, and the Psychology Clinic for Children and Adolescents. Dr. Baker is a member of the Coalition for Compassionate Schools and the Violence Prevention Institute. She is an implementation scientist and a prevention scientist who studies violence prevention, including trauma-informed approaches, socioemotional learning, and school-based mental health. Dr. Baker’s research, teaching, and professional service aim to promote the well-being of children who are marginalized due to surviving adversity and trauma, living in poverty, or experiencing racism and discrimination. The long-term goal of Dr. Baker’s research is to shrink and prevent disparities in health and academic achievement.