Janecia Rolland, better known as Coach Jae, talked with Dr. Terrie Noland in a Literacy Leadership podcast, about the intersection between education, trauma, and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), and how they affect equity and learning in schools.
Coach Jae is the Founder and CEO of Restoration Coaching, LLC. She is an educator, content creator, author, youth speaker, and expert facilitator, holding dual Masters Degrees in Family Practice and Restorative Clinical Counseling.
Traumatic experiences are not who we are.
Coach Jae believes that the heart of equity are relationships, and understanding “who we are as people.” As a lifelong learner of human behavior, she applies her expertise in education, psychology and impacts of Trauma in education to help educators find their “center.” Jae says, “To improve equity in our classrooms, we must first understand ourselves. Then we will be better prepared to look for indicators that uncover deeper grievances affecting how we relate to each other, our ability to learn, and our coping mechanisms.”
Why do we do and react the way we do?
“Behavior is a learned skill, and children are sponges,” says Jae. “They replicate what we do.” Learned behaviors begin at a young age, and connect to everything we act on, feel, and think. They affect biases to reinforce our behavior. Coach Jae wants us to recognize that all people have experienced trauma and adversity in some way. This could be a devastating loss of a family member, a national tragedy, or lack of food at our dinner table, and/or the pandemic. There are infinite examples of trauma and ACEs in our lives. Our ability to recognize our emotions of a triggered event, and what our learned responses are is a valuable skill set – one that can help us as individuals and educators connect deeply with ourselves and students who cross our path.
Reading As a Barrier
A student struggling to read, write or communicate effectively may be caused by a trauma or can become a traumatic experience. Some students associate themselves with their abilities. If separated from their peers due to a reading barrier, students may feel less than or isolated. If they cannot read grade-level materials and are given low level books, they may show anger at themselves or the teacher, or have the feeling of not caring to read at all.
Coach Jae recently worked with a fourth grader who rarely spoke in class. His teacher recognized that he was dealing with some form of trauma using a learned behavior of alienation, but she could not reach him, even with praise. “Positive reinforcement is wonderful,” she says, “but not everyone reacts positively to it.” What this youngster did respond to was a conversation about the Super Mario Brothers, a topic he was interested in. It got his attention. It got his curiosity. It opened dialogue that led to a book about the Mario Brothers, and another book, and another. The student began to see himself differently. Instead of praise, this student wanted lollipops…not always the best reward, but it worked for him.
Heightening Our Awareness
Sixty-seven percent of our population has experienced at least one traumatic experience. By heightening our awareness, and acknowledging our triggers and behaviors, we are better equipped to recognize and understand others’ behaviors. We can more easily identify trauma indicators. We are more apt to ask relevant questions; open dialogue, speak authentically, influence, inspire, empower, and model what healthy grief and trauma responses look like. "We need exposure to different ways of thinking,” says Jae. “That way, we can be receptive to others and their experiences which increases our ability to view life through a more equitable lens. This is what equity truly is about. We may not understand what equity means for each individual, but we can show up as our authentic self as an invitation to co-create and build safe spaces for all to gain access and to support individual and collective needs.
Mindfulness Mental Health
Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can encompass various forms -- physical, emotional neglect, family dysfunction, hunger, poverty, and impact mental health. Coach Jae offers these suggestions:
It’s okay to pause.
Incorporate self-care into your daily functions. If you like nature, teach a lesson on this topic.
Challenge your behaviors, thinking, and relationship with yourself.
Special thanks to Coach Jae for discussing the topic of equity in education, and the emotional, psychological, mental, and spiritual aspects of trauma, and ACEs. With improved awareness of our own circumstances, we can better understand ourselves, and transfer that knowledge into positive ways to improve students’ wellbeing and academic outcomes and make life better for all.
Coach Jae can be contacted at: janecia.rolland(at)gmail.com.