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A Role for English Language Teachers in Trauma Healing

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Abstract

Because English language teachers should take into account the social-psychological situation of the students they teach, they must be sensitive to the effects of traumatic stress among learners. Refugee and immigrant children are frequently survivors of trauma, along with their peers in crisis-torn English as a foreign language settings around the world. Without experiencing some measure of healing from trauma, children will be frustrated in their language learning. This article explains how what we know about trauma can be aligned with effective language instructional practices. The author first provides information about the effects of trauma and then identifies teaching approaches that are sensitive to the needs of those affected by trauma. The author suggests ways that teachers can (a) include intelligences that may be neglected in traditional language classrooms as a way to address the needs of trauma-affected youth in order to have multiple channels for self-expression and language learning; (b) integrate language instruction with self-expression and exploration of social relationships; and (c) incorporate content-based language instruction that explains the trauma healing process. Although further investigations are needed, English language teachers can play a role in trauma healing for learners because artful acts of instruction are therapeutic, promoting both wholeness and effective instruction for all learners.

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