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Trust Takes Time: Trauma-Informed Practice for Teaching Artists, Week 2

The group of 12 teaching artists selected to participate in Bartol’s first trauma training workshop series. (Photo credit: Tezarah Wilkins.)

 

Years ago, a teaching artist said to me, “I thought if I was really organized and had my lesson plans all set that I could move the project along faster.” He was working at a center for adjudicated youth and quickly realized that building the trust needed for these young people to share their stories took time. It took as long as it took for the students to believe that he, as a teaching artist, wasn’t just another adult who came into their lives, usually to tell them why their stories were wrong or not worth listening to. That he would show up every week and honor their voices.

This experience was borne out this week as we talked about the many barriers to building trust with people who have been impacted by trauma. We learned how to spot where students are on the continuum of trust.  The student leaning back in her chair with her hoodie pulled over her eyes is probably not ready to leap into an exercise requiring eye contact, touching or personal disclosures. Great thanks to teaching artist and moving body, Shavon Norris, who showed us ways to speak respectfully to students, meet them where they are in what you are asking them to do, and stating often that you trust them to know their bodies and comfort zone to participate as best they can in any activity. Lead facilitator Mindy Early also shared ways to have different levels of participation, all of which are authentic, real work.  If you can’t write a whole page, write three lines. If you don’t want to dance, be the DJ.

The teaching artists’ takeaways from this week’s class include:

  • Inviting students into the space and allowing them to participate in a manner which feels comfortable to them.
  • That our art can also cause discomfort.
  • “I invite you to” instead of “I want you to.”
  • React wisely and thoughtfully. Invite more often.
  • How my art form can be difficult for students

 

Next week: How Trauma Manifests in Student Behavior. In the meantime, visit www.headspace.com for more mindfulness tips.

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