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A Healing Curriculum


School psychology experts at Tulane University and Walden University recently helped to develop a "healing curriculum" at one New Orleans-based charter school. The 12-week curriculum is designed to help students cope with trauma and emotional distress in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Bonnie Nastasi, director of the school psychology program at Walden, told Teacher Magazine in a recent interview that schools today should make social and emotional learning a bigger part of the regular school curriculum.

What do you think? Should emotional healing be taught in a classroom setting? Is therapeutic instruction appropriate—and can it be effective in schools?



Yes, therapeutic instruction is appropriate within the classroom setting. I am a writer for children's books and I just did a workshop based on my 2006 release Grandma's Trunk/El Baul de Mamaita. It was a writing workshop for grades 4-8 and it was very successful and therapeutic. However, I would not recommend it to younger children. The teacher or presenter need to use common sense. Anyone is welcome to view my website at:

Best Regards,
Maria L. Retana

Emotional healing can and should be taught in schools. Students today are faced with numerous challenges -- gunmen in schools, teachers accused of raping students, natural disasters that displace thousands. Any time an educator can help a student heal emotionally, that educator bridges a gap between adult and child that leads to acceptance of life's challenges, the knowledge of how to cope, and, ultimately, a bond between teaching and learning.

It was my pleasure to participate in a consortium sponsored by ASCD entitled "Planned Response to Unplanned Change." As I looked around the room at fellow attendees, I saw heads nod with understanding, compassion, and determination to help others. We have a moral obligation to teach not just content but also students and their families.

After reading the ACE (Adverse childhood experiences) studies, I am a firm believer in helping children grieve and acknowlege loss in the healthiest ways. The ACEs results document how continued exposure to traumatic stressors (child abuse, family dysfunction, parent without a job, death of a family member, victim of bullying) can lead to short and long term health and social outcomes. As the events increase, ACE has shown a strong and graded relationship to health-related behaviors and outcomes during childhood and adolescence including early initiation of smoking, sexual activity, and illicit drug use, adolescent pregnancies, and suicide attempts.

I think all schools need to incorporate mechanisms and skills to deal with feelings of caused by loss. As an adult, I think we too could greatly learn from these programs.

Emotional healing should be addressed regularly in the classroom since losses are not all convenient or occur with groups but rather on a continuing basis for individuals including school teachers and staff. Grief and loss not responded to or acknowledged impacts the ability to learn and retain knowledge. We all need tools and strategies to deal with emotions.

I am so happy to see a dialogue on this important topic. Stress, distress, and trauma interfere with learning and behavior. A few years ago I developed a workshop called "Mind over Mess" which is a train the trainers model geared to helping teachers help students learn and use emotional wellness strategies. In my "Taking Charge of Classroom Behavior" workshops, I also spend a full-third of the presentation time working on emotional wellness strategies because we all know children with emotional disturbances misbehave, underperform, and require attention. The vast literature on resilience shows that the presence of a competent, caring adult (preferably parents, but often not the case) can make the difference between a positive or negative outcome for children at risk. Teachers who help students develop these emotional wellness abilities not only improve the students'academic and behavioral performance: they make a huge difference in the lives of children.

Yes, the world is a very emotionally harsh world. I have yet to meet a person that has not experienced trauma. It manifests itself in driveness - driven to overeat, drink, obsess in thought, etc. Until we begin connecting as adults (and teachers) to our own beings, we have little to offer the children. If we live our lives conforming, living in denial of own issues, we have nothing to offer the children for healing. The children know when we are not being real-living from our own authentic selves. They will learn from us how to wear the masks, cover up the pain with medication, etc. Is that what we want. Our first step as teachers is to ask ourselves "Are we rooted in truth of our own soul or are we living a lie?" Have we conformed to a society that has given us a set of rules that in actuality are lies, creating only paper mache human beings.

We are seeing more and more young children with emotional and behavior problems in preschool. The sooner they get intervention the easier it will be for them as school age children. We also need to have adult trained to handle the emotional up sets and more parenting classes to help educate young parents.

Emotional healing and trauma are factors in every student's time in the classroom. To avoid addressing such issues may even deepen trauma. But emotional issues must be addressed sensitively.

We had a well known student die this past fall in a tragic auto accident. My classes were shown the online obituary, photo album, and guest book where they were allowed to read others postings and then post their own thoughts and condolences. Class time was allowed for such postings but it was totally voluntary. I advised counseling staff that this being allowed and asked for their feedback as to any negative results. It appears to have gone very well. Students became very expressive and spoke often of the process of reading what others had written and then writing their own thoughts.

We have also started at our school a 10 year rotating time-capsule system with long range planning and stability being the goal. It is called the Achievements & Goals Archive and is described at www.studentmotivation.org. It is hoped that this projecting into the future will be valuable for our students. In 8 years when the first alumni to have written such letters begin returning to pick them up, they will be invited to speak with current students. With such mentoring becoming an annual tradition, the most powerful value of this system may be experienced. Alumni will be telling students what they wish they had done when they were 13 years old.

Both these projects are part of the growth, intellectual and emotional, that we must encourage among our students.

I am so happy to see that people are recognizing that we as teachers need to include a social and emotional curriculum in our daily teachings. Our roles as teachers have come a long way and have developed into much more than just saying the ABC's. As a Special Education teacher, I know that I have to dig deeper into the lifes of many of my student to uncover many of the problems that they bring into the classroom. Now-a-days, teachers cannot begin the basics of teaching without first addressing the many issues that students face in and out of school. This is a very important issue that must be addressed because teachers are expected to teach children certain concepts, around all the social/emotional problems, within a time frame and then being held accountable on scores their classes will receive based on one state test. In the end who loses?

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Recent Comments

  • Diana Monarrez: I am so happy to see that people are recognizing read more
  • Bill Betzen LMSW (Emeritus)/Computer Applications Teacher: Emotional healing and trauma are factors in every student's time read more
  • K-Teacher: We are seeing more and more young children with emotional read more
  • Darylene Laurent ESL teacher: Yes, the world is a very emotionally harsh world. I read more
  • Mary Fowler, Practical Seminars for Teachers: I am so happy to see a dialogue on this read more




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