Suzy* came to our school in 4th grade. When she first arrived, she was combative, constantly fighting with peers and school staff and very negative. Suzy and I got to know each other very well. I learned that her father had died on her birthday a year prior and that her mother was in and out of jail her whole life. Her siblings were scattered around with different family members. After learning about all her trauma, we were able to start working on goals to help her be more successful at school. Suzy's feelings of fear and loneliness were displaying as anger and resentment.
I taught the school staff about trauma and the effects that it has on students. I helped them understand that Suzy was a great kid that needed some consistent adults in her life. Eventually, her behaviors improved and her relationships with peers and staff got better.
Suzy is now in 6th grade. Her living situation has not changed, and she still struggles with her father’s death at times. She now understands how to manage her feelings and uses strategies and tools to help her stay in control of her thoughts and feelings. She makes good grades, studies very hard and has great relationships with her peers. She looks after others and is always the first one to stick up for someone who is struggling to stick up for themselves. Suzy is a great example of how students benefit from attending a school with caring and compassionate adults that take the time to help them overcome challenges and be successful.
*Name change for Privacy
Story provided by Jessica Perkins, social worker at St. Lawrence.