I am so excited that you have chosen to read Don’t Look Too Closely. In this book, Belinda Adams takes a look at hurting children. She shares her perspective with stories from her classroom, that help us to see what we can do to provide a bright spot in the lives of children who have experienced trauma.
The strategies in this book are not new and expensive, most require just a little of your time. However, they are not as easy as rocket science where 2 + 3 always equals 5. No, when we start talking about things to help students who have experienced trauma, we can’t simply say here is the answer, because all children are different. As Belinda reminds us, ‘one-size’ does not fit all. It doesn’t fit all teachers and it most certainly does not fit all students. Through years of tears and struggling to find answers, Belinda shares an assortment of strategies that we can tailor to our own teaching styles and to the unique problems and challenges our students face. If one strategy does not work, try another strategy or a combination of strategies.
Belinda is one of the most caring teachers I know. She has a passion for children who need someone to be there for them. She is continually looking for ways to make the classroom a place where students, all students, feel safe as she employs many strategies to help them be emotionally available to learn while imparting a sense of high expectations for students. Belinda has one of the highest success rates with difficult students – success rates measured in improved behavior and academic performance.
Now, some may glance through this book and feel that the strategies are not really that big of a deal. I’m here to say that they are. As a child of trauma myself, I can remember the overriding question of my childhood: Where are the people who are supposed to protect me? Growing up in a different time with less understanding of the impact of emotions on achievement, some years there was no one, but eventually, school became my place of refuge. The best teachers, I still remember – Mr. Daniels, Ms. Avery, Mrs. White. I excelled in their classes as I felt safe, protected, cared for. Looking back, no one did anything spectacular. Some just noticed my strengths, others always had a kind word or an encouraging comment when I needed to do better. Mostly, they cared and had confidence in my ability to succeed even though I could be difficult and I was not always on-task. These things were important, because school was the only place this was occurring during one particularly traumatic period of my life.
As I thought about Don’t Look Too Closely, I remembered the feeling. Like the children in Belinda’s class, I was hiding something. As a child, it can be embarrassing to admit the trauma you face daily. I only wanted to be loved and accepted, a normal kid – not the object of someone’s pity. For pity, at least to me, suggested hopelessness. I wanted teachers and other adults to look beyond my situation, understanding life was difficult while they brought hope that life wouldn’t always be that way. I needed role models to show me caring adults existed, especially when the people who cared for me had been ripped from my life. I yearned for someone to know me and know what I was capable of if I could just control the untamed emotional roller coaster driven by constant trauma. Belinda tells us how we can do that for the students in our classroom. It does matter.
Belinda shows us some things we can do to help, but she is honest. Sometimes, the needs of students are beyond the ability of any one person to fulfill. Even in those cases, Belinda demonstrates ways we can provide some relief to a suffering child. I’ve known Belinda for many years and I can say this is more than just a job to her. When Belinda describes a child’s story, she is talking about a child who has touched her heart and she has done all she could to help that child. While some stories do not have what we would consider happy endings, I am proof that we may not be looking at the ending. Today, I am a successful professional and I am able to talk about traumatic situations in my life objectively while remaining emotionally stable. However, if you had looked at my life in high school, you would not have thought the efforts of my teachers and other adults made any difference, but some situations require time for efforts to produce success. Don’t discount your efforts because you are not privileged to see the difference you made in a child’s life. Be thankful for the relief you were able to provide for a short time and hopeful that you aren’t seeing the end.
Belinda seems to have a soft spot for hurting kids and a radar for students of trauma. Don’t Look Too Closely, shows strategies she uses to help students feel accepted, worthy, and empowered to learn. As Belinda says, “We must challenge ourselves to see their pain while still encouraging them to learn.” We have a choice. Some may say, this is not my job and choose not to get involved. I hope that through the words of this book, you will be inspired to choose to help students, especially hurting students. Belinda wrote this book to share her strategies, if you find them helpful let others know about the book. If we all choose to step up, everyone benefits – the students, the teachers, and even society. Will you be the difference for the hurting kids in your life?
Annie -Childhood Trauma Survivor