WWU's Wolpow co-authors book on how to reach traumatized students
Western Washington University Professor of Secondary Education Ray Wolpow is the lead author of “The Heart of Teaching and Learning: Compassion, Resiliency, and Academic Success,” a just-published resource for helping K-12 teachers reach out and connect with students whose lives are affected by trauma.
The book, which Wolpow took a yearlong sabbatical to research, was co-authored by two of Wolpow’s colleagues at the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Mona Johnson and Ron Hertel; and Susan Kincaid, a WWU assistant professor of Human Services and Rehabilitation. More than 100 educators statewide also contributed to the research.
“There is nothing new about the presence of traumatized children in our schools. The consequences of family and societal problems such as intimate-partner violence, physical, emotional, sexual, or substance abuse; gang violence, homelessness, or loss of family members due to death, abandonment or incarceration, is pervasive and affects the ability of children to do well in academics,” Wolpow said. “This handbook is intended to serve as a focal point in the collective efforts to help these students overcome trauma, foster resilience, and succeed physically, emotionally, socially and academically in the school setting.”
As a high school teacher in Whatcom County in the 1980s, Wolpow remembers counseling one of his students, a victim of violence occurring in the home.
“She had cigarette burns on her arms, and when she told me the details of what was going on at home, I realized why this very bright student was unable to complete her assignments for my class,” he said. “A colleague of ours, who is quoted in this book, says that focusing on academics while struggling with trauma is like ‘trying to play chess in a hurricane.’ It is difficult to focus on history when you have a history of ongoing abuse, on math when you have to calculate a safe place to stay tonight, or on literature when your own story is beyond words.”
In writing “The Heart of Learning and Teaching,” Wolpow and his colleague hope to have crafted a resource to help teachers better understand trauma and its behavioral consequences and to illustrate methods, policies and procedures to best meet these needs. In addition, the book shows how compassionate school policies and methods can assist in helping these students.
Wolpow’s sabbatical to complete “The Heart of Learning and Teaching” was made possible by Western Washington University; the expenses for the formatting, layout, and publication of the book were paid with a grant from the state’s Mental Health Transformation Project. The book is available as a free teaching resource via download at http://www.k12.wa.us/compassionateschools/.
WWU will host a reception to thank contributors to the book on Monday, Jan. 11. For more information on “The Heart of Teaching and Learning: Compassion, Resiliency, and Academic Success,” contact Ray Wolpow at (360) 650-3337.