Homeless students often have a history of behavioral problems. From outbursts and fighting to suspensions and distrust of administrators, the students we enroll have usually struggled in traditional schools.
At Positive Tomorrows, that all changes.
When a child struggles, it’s easy to ask, “What is wrong with you?” We refrain from that question and instead ask ourselves, “What has happened to this child?” This trauma-informed approach to teaching creates a therapeutic learning environment where students can heal.
Homelessness causes constant trauma. Our students have seen domestic violence. They’ve experienced aching hunger, many have parents who’ve been incarcerated, and they come to school each morning unsure where home will be at night.
For our students, symptoms of chronic stress have often been mislabeled as disciplinary issues. An exhausted child can’t focus, a hungry child tries to cut in line at lunch. It’s not misbehavior, it’s stressed behavior.
Ryan is 8, loves to collect rocks and began bringing them in from recess at school. His teacher, sensing an imminent meltdown upon telling him it was too distracting, pulled him aside to talk. She learned that his mom was enrolled in a new shelter program for addicts requiring her to stay on campus for the first 30 days. Outside of school, he couldn’t leave the shelter without mom. School was the only place he could collect rocks. At a time when everything was going wrong, he was scared this one last joyful thing was going to be taken away from him.
They reached a compromise: rocks go straight into your backpack and stay there until you get home. What could have ruined this little ones day, turned into a moment of connection and healing.
Children growing up in poverty are often unheard and unnoticed. At Positive Tomorrows students have a voice, and we teach them how to cope with the stress and trauma poverty has placed upon them.
When kids like Ryan leave us, they have the tools to self-regulate and the confidence to communicate their needs. This is what a trauma-informed approach does for children.
Our goal is to send our precious students out into the world happier, healthier and ready to learn.