Are Children Being Traumatized by Poor Classroom Management?

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May 11, 2022

Are Children Being Traumatized by Poor Classroom Management?

As a licensed professional counselor and certified school counselor, I have served many school-aged clients that have taken part in the MTSS (Mutli-Tiered Systems of Supports) process for behavior. These students were recommended for this process because the classroom teacher saw disruptive and off-task behaviors from the students.

To support these students, the teachers made counseling referrals and MTSS referrals for behavior. The teachers noticed the student’s behavior improve after he or she was given a behavior intervention plan and counseling, but on average the data reported from the intervention was extremely inconsistent.

In a few instances, the parents of the students who were receiving behavior plans became frustrated with the school, due to several complaints of behavior concerns from the teacher and school administrators. Out of frustration, the parents requested for the student to switch to another teacher’s classroom. Once the student switched classrooms the student’s behavior improved drastically which resulted in a dismissal from the MTSS process.

As a school counselor and a former classroom teacher. I made it known that the issue was poor classroom management and recommended professional development for the teacher, but this request was not supported. This is a major concern for me as an educator and counselor. I believed it was unfair for the student to get reprimanded by school administrators, i.e., suspended from school due to their classroom teachers’ lack of cultural competence and professional training.

In my professional opinion, improperly trained teachers could negatively affect their students’ self-esteem, and some may feel their students were traumatized. As a result of poor classroom management, the parent-teacher relationship was damaged and is unlikely to be rebuilt. The parents lost trust in the school’s ability to supply a safe and nurturing environment for their children.

A child who experiences this type of trauma may start to develop a negative self-image. These negative self-images can also be reinforced by seeing how he or she is being treated differently compared to their peers. In addition to witnessing, authority figures at school appear frustrated and overwhelmed by not being able to properly find the student’s needs and use adequate problem-solving skills to foster a healthy classroom environment. The student was being held responsible for their deficit in using self-regulation skills to control their emotions and manage their behavior but, it is the responsibility of the certified trained professionals to teach the students how to manage their behaviors in a healthy and productive manner.

Yes, I do believe improperly trained teachers can traumatize students in their classrooms. It is my recommendation in these situations to require educators to partner with licensed mental health professionals or certified behavior specialists to evaluate the whole child and accurately assess the resources needed to significantly improve their behavior. This strategy will supply an extra layer of support the child needs to decrease the potential of unintentionally traumatizing their students.

For parents that find themselves in this situation, I recommend scheduling a meeting with the teacher, principal, assistant principal, academic coach, and/or curriculum support teacher, to communicate the parents’ concerns. If you find your concerns are not being supported at the school level, please reach out to district-level personnel such as MTSS Coordinators and Areas Superintendents. Lastly, if you still do not feel supported, contact an educational advocate agency. Hopefully, after reading this blog, parents have gained the knowledge to comfortably advocate for their children, if presented with these circumstances.

Written by Cassandra Walker, LPC of The Journey Counseling Services, LLC.

Kadesha Adelakun, LCSW, RPT-S, PMH-C
Kadesha Adelakun, LCSW, RPT-S, PMH-C
Owner/Director of The Journey Counseling Services, LLC Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor, Perinatal Mental Health-Certification, Cultural and Racial Diversity Play Therapy Consultant, and International Speaker and Trainer