"We won't have a successful education paradigm, or even accurately interpret academic success, while ignoring trauma's overwhelming presence." -- Daun Kauffman
Daun Kauffman has been teaching in Philadelphia public schools for 14 years. He's written about how kids' trauma is the elephant in the [class]room. He has posted several related essays here on ACEsConnection, and a particularly convicting post for the general public on ACEsTooHigh.com. The response was so remarkable that he has started his own blog, LucidWitness.com, and, recently, was invited to testify before the Philadelphia City Council. In his words:
There were supposed to be 10-12 presenters totalling two hours, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., including questions. This was a special hearing set up by the Education Committee to learn more about the public's concerns with "high-stakes" standardized testing. I left school promptly at 3 p.m. to hear the earliest possible presenter. More than 15 presenters and 5 hours later, it was my turn. I ended up speaking at 8 p.m., which sounds bad but worked pretty well. This unknown "rookie goes to City Council" scenario had created mucho adrenaline and a cortisol-soaked cortex, which had almost five hours to chill while I surveyed the landscape and the council members.
By the time Kauffman testified, he notes, only council members and a few other people who stayed to be polite remained. And most of the council members were tapping away on their smart phones.
He interwove the story of Danny (in "Danny Goes to School") with information about the CDC's ACE Study, the neurobiology of toxic stress, and Philadelphia's Urban ACE survey.
It went very well. With most others gone (it had been standing room only at 3 p.m.), I was able to steal more than my five-minute limit. I was tired, having risen at 5 a.m., as usual, to be in my classroom on time, and given the poignancy of the topic, I bordered on emotional. Council members put down cell phones and listened. They acknowleged the uniqueness of the trauma content, and I actually exceeded 14 minutes, without interruption. I still wasn't sure that they weren't simply being polite, given the long wait. I was thankful, either way, that they hadn't truncated the entire hearing earlier. I had been fearful that I wouldn't be heard at all. I think there was a mutual appreciation for each other waiting out the crowd. It was pretty intimate, given the stately and cavernous City Hall hearing room.
If you take a look at the video, you'll see that Kauffman could pretty much not fail to make an impression. And the next morning, he received an email (sent after midnight) with more followup questions from Councilman Squilla, who'd organized the hearing.
If you want to read his testimony, go here.