Growing Their Own Communities

School can be anxiety-inducing and a source of fear for many children. Bullying within school walls and on playgrounds is a real obstacle many face. For nine children now receiving education in trauma-informed classrooms and under the Reggio Emilia model, these aversions no longer hold space.

Trauma-informed schools are being developed at many of the Back2Back sites. Staff have unanimously seen the effects on children when educators lack trauma-training, thus not fully understanding what some of their students face. In response, Back2Back-run, trauma-informed schools have been built on-site at many Back2Back locations. Educators are hired and receive full training in Trauma Competent Caregiving.  

One site in Mexico took an extra step, implementing a teaching  style called Reggio Emilia. This educational approach focuses on primary education, is student-centered, and self-guided. The curriculum uses self-directed experiential learning in relationship-driven environments based on principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration, discovery, and play. The aim of Reggio Emilia is guiding students to use the “hundreds of languages” through which they can express their ideas such as painting, sculpting, and drama in everyday life. 

Recently, staff have seen great social and emotional progress in their students through this program. Safe adults who create healthy routines for their students allow the children to learn patterns and implement them, creating fresh standards of learning for their futures. Another area of growth is the sense of community and growing empathy occurring among the children. 

“When we consider where the children were when we began, and the struggles they had at their previous schools, we understand they have experienced school-based trauma. This led to fear among the children,” shared Regina Ortiz, Back2Back staff. 

When bodies and brains are under stress or are attempting to remain regulated, they lack capacity to be concerned for others. This was evident at the beginning of the year;  students were predominantly focused on themselves, not considering others’ feelings. Now, months into this style of classroom and learning, staff see students affected by their peers’ needs. Their compassion extends beyond themselves.

It is within the new classrooms, around newer tables, where nine children are finding a safe place to learn, ask questions, and even be wrong sometimes. They know they won’t be picked on or mocked, and they know the teachers want nothing more than to see them succeed. It is with the newfound felt safety that staff are able to see children for who they truly are – kind, empathetic, and eager to learn.