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Students of Trauma

A Handbook for Classroom Teaching in an Environment of Suffering

Dan Shepherd

Students of Trauma: A Handbook for Classroom Teaching in an Environment of Suffering provides educators with real world strategies for working with students who have experienced trauma and who express that trauma through depression, aggression, anxiety, hyperactivity, and suspicion. This handbook, based on current educational research and on the experiences of actual teachers, provides practical guidance to individuals working in schools with hurting young people. What sets this handbook apart from other trauma-informed education texts is its emphasis on specific and direct actions and attitudes that teachers can take today to make a powerful difference in the lives of their most troubled students. Students of Trauma will be a helpful addition to the libraries of classroom teachers, their administrators, and those who train them.

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Chapter 7 Unreality


I hesitate every time I present the topic of students who break with reality to audiences. My hesitation is two-fold. First, it is an area, obviously, well outside my area of expertise, training, and experience. Clearly, I am not a psychologist of abnormal behavior, and truthfully, I am grateful for that, so my intention in this chapter is not to provide reference information for psychiatrists but to suggest some helpful guidance for working classroom teachers who may encounter this in their classrooms and schools.

Second, in my lengthy career in education – spanning multiple decades, across positions in suburban and urban areas, from the classroom to the superintendent’s office, from elementary to the university – I have only very rarely encountered this particular research-suggested response to trauma in the lives of students, but sadly, I have encountered it. I do not want to give it too prominent consideration because it is so rare, but I also do not want to ignore it because it may happen to another teacher, and I want them to have some resource to help him or her. Below are two of my stories related to this rare but dramatic response to trauma.

A fourth grader in my building, Shawn was incredibly physically appealing, just as cute as he could be. Long dark hair, perfect olive-hued skin, large and bright brown eyes. Perhaps because of this or perhaps because of some unquantifiable reason, he just had that special something, a real charisma. His peers...

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