The White Elephant in the Classroom

The White Elephant in the Classroom

THE INTERRUPTER | Your Write to Education | June 2018

The White Elephant in the Classroom

Let me begin by saying what I am about to assert doesn’t necessarily pass the reliability and validity tests of sound research practices, but is for the purpose of creating pause and perhaps a bit of cognitive dissonance.  While we are applying all that we know to create trauma-informed practices, let us not be remiss in pointing out that according to an 2012 report by the U.S. Department of Education, 82% of the teachers, at that time, in public education were white. It may have gone down some since then, so keep that in mind.

Now, consider that the capstone research referenced in the majority of trauma conversations center around a piece of research called the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) where the subjects of this research were white, middle class adults. This would be the place in the research or the report you would point out the limitation of generalization or the obvious white elephant.  We have to be careful to apply a broad stroke approach. Populations living in more adverse and impoverished situations than those studied might be suspected to be more greatly impacted by adverse childhood experiences. Actually, state-specific ACE research is showing this high probability.  A very important point, but not exactly my point in this writing.  My point here is that those subjects characteristic of the study are the same people standing in front of the classroom teaching students.  It may be you, it was me.  I love the quote by my friend.

“A person’s ability to be empathetic and sensitive to what is going on around them is indicative of their attunement to what is going on inside of them.” Colleen Slaton, OTR/L, Pink Brain Concussions Ambassador, Collaborator in the Cause

If teachers with unaddressed trauma are standing in front of the classroom called upon to support and help children with unaddressed trauma or who are in the midst of active trauma, it is easy to see how anxiety levels and unhealthy adaptive responses by teachers could lead to a crisis of self-care. Circling around educators as they support our students has to take center stage. What are you thoughts on how to address this very important topic?  Reach out and let us hear from you at


Childhood trauma expert Dr. Ivy Bonk is Educational Psychologist/Consultant with IMAGINAL Education Group, Founder/President of ReThink Learning, Inc.  She is NME-Certified Trainer with the Child Trauma Academy.  In addition, she is the author and organizer of the course, The Day Trauma Came to Class;  architect of The Lost Child Theory; and Lead Bridge Builder and Collaborator in the Cause at My Trauma Informed School.