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Lifelong Learning

Teachers learn about impact of trauma and importance of building relationships with Native American students

July 3, 2019

It’s shifting the mindset from thinking what is wrong with students to what has happened to students, Ricky White told Moorhead secondary teachers in April as he shared information about the impact of trauma on students. White also spoke to teachers during sessions at Metro Tech Camp in June.

White said research into at-risk youth shows that 25 percent of the students have had trauma in their lives. Families with trauma speak fewer words to their children than those who haven’t experienced trauma, he said.

“A good chunk have barriers preventing them from doing their best in the classroom,” White said.

White, who has studied the impact of trauma on at-risk youth, shared his own story of moving from the reservation.

White’s father was sent to a residential school at age 12 and survived the mistreatment, but he turned to alcohol as a way to live with the trauma. The historical trauma has created a distrust of schools for Native Americans.

Eventually White and his mother left the reservation. In his first year as an Anishinaabe transitioning to a new life off the reservation, White didn’t know norms like knocking on a door and waiting to be let into someone’s house. If he hadn’t made a friend who taught him that etiquette, he isn’t sure what would have happened to him.

White reminded teachers that students may not know the classroom norms, and he emphasized the importance of building relationships and creating belonging in their classrooms. He used the example of the iceberg that what you see on top may be hiding what’s really going on under the water.

“We want to have all our kids succeed,” he said. “This is good for everybody.”

Photo: During a presentation at Horizon Middle School East Campus, Ricky White speaks to Moorhead teachers about the impact of trauma on students and importance of building relationships.

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