California Educator

October/November 2019

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T H E S E P A S T C O U P L E of years, I have been w orking on being an ef fective storyteller, for myself and for my stu- dents. Telling stories connects us to one another, sustaining our humanity. Our stories are snippets of moments in our lives, helping us understand ourselves and those who dwell in them. As I think about my stories, I am inevitably reminded of the traumas from my childhood. I have an image of my mother sitting against the door, h elpl e ss, h er h ea d bl e edin g, a s my father loaded us into his pickup truck, taking us to one of his relatives after an evening brawl with my mother. I still feel the held-back tears inside our white Chevy Lumina as we were on our way to my elementar y school , when my mother told us t h a t o n e d a y w e were going to come home from school, and she would not be th ere anymore. ese images of vio- lence and feelings of fear often f licker through my mind , like an old reel run- ning through a film projector. This past year of teaching middle school to mostly English learners, I heard the many traumas in my students' lives. One student came to school afraid that her single mother might be put in jail, and she didn't know what would happen to her and her siblings. Another shared why he was so exhausted: He had been in the ER all night because his uncle got shot. I contacted th e school counselor because another student had been com- ing into class feeling sick, feeling like he needed to throw up, because of the stress at home. In a writing piece, which I also sent to the counselor, he wrote: "When I was little everything was better [no] one was mad at each other every- thing was good. Until my mom cheated. … When they got [divorced] everything went [down spiral] when my dad got a new girlfriend she would always say that I'm not normal, and that [would] make m e s a d . W h e n m y mom got a new boy- friend he was nice to m e b u t s o m e ti m e s get mad at m e. Till this day everything is still bad. the end" M y l e s s o n f o r t h e d a y b e c o m e s minut e and dimin- i s h e d i n t h e m i d s t of these situations. How do I expect a c h i l d t o " l e a r n" w h e n t h e y a r e physically, mentally and emotionally over whelmed by all that is going on outside of my classroom? Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris, the first and current surgeon general of California, has discussed the negative effects of persistent childhood trauma: "Children are especially sensitive to this repeated stress activation, because their brains and bodies are just developing. High doses of adversity not only affect brain structure and function, they affect the developing immune system, devel- oping hormonal systems, and even the way our DNA is read and transcribed." As educators, we must provide the space and time in our curriculum to "witness" the difficult stories that our stu d e n t s br i n g w ith th e m i n t o th e classroom. e Digital Stories Project, a unit I created for students to share personal narratives, validates students' Talking About Trauma Digital storytelling helps students tell what they've lived — and be heard By Judy Her Duran Judy Her Duran "As educators, we must provide the space and time in our curriculum to 'witness' the difficult stories that our students bring with them into the classroom." The Digital Stories Project The project uses the writing process to construct personal narratives, and then employs a video editing application (such as iMovie) to visualize these stories with images, voice and music. The goal is to empower students to share their stories and to learn from one another through these stories. To view samples of student work, visit 18 Spotlight

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