Tent School educators equipped for children with PTSD

By November 28, 2016

Middle East (MNN) — Imagine being a teacher with a classroom of rowdy kids. No matter what you do, you cannot calm them down or get them to stay seated. They refuse to pay attention to anything you say, and they seem to be just plain ‘naughty’. Sound tricky? Now imagine your classroom is a tent set in a refugee camp. As Jessica Roost of Tent Schools International says, “Educating this particular population comes [with] a lot of challenges.”

Sure enough, sometimes those ‘naughty’ or inattentive students have a lot more going on than just a problem with obedience. “In reality, their capability is so much past that, but their brain is so focused on the trauma they’ve endured, [they] can’t get to that place of, ‘Here I am, ready to learn,’” says Roost.

Photo Courtesy Tent Schools International

(Photo courtesy of Tent Schools International)

And the students aren’t the only ones at risk; their teachers are just as susceptible to suffering. “The caregivers working with these children are at risk for developing their own sort of secondary trauma from all of the pain these kids have dealt with,” explains Roost, calling this personal struggle ‘Compassion Fatigue’.

With so many problems, Tent Schools needed a solution. That’s why Roost helped write a guide for educators that will help them better identify and treat students struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The guide is designed to assist teachers in crisis situations so they can come alongside their students and give them the support and training they need to learn effectively. It provides tools so the children can break free from their ‘fight-flight-freeze’ mentality and truly apply their intuitive young minds to their education.

Roost says Tent Schools International understands “teachers are not medical professionals, they’re not psychologists, they’re not able to actually diagnose or identify necessarily who has PTSD and who does not. However, there are certain signs they can see.”

Photo Courtesy Tent Schools International

(Photo courtesy of Tent Schools International)

For example, “children with PTSD and adults with PTSD have a really big issue with trust…because everyone they’ve ever trusted…has betrayed them, and authority has betrayed them. The people that were supposed to protect them, did not protect them. And love? I mean, they’re not used to feeling unconditional love like the love Christ has to offer.”

Those three points — trust, authority, and love — are some of the primary concepts the book seeks to explain. Roost wants educators to understand the children have “been thrown into this situation where nothing is certain, nothing is known, everything is a mystery.”

For the kids, every day is a battle. “They’re just struggling with what’s going on inside their brain, and they’re struggling with everything they’ve had to deal with, and they’re struggling with their spirituality.”

Photo Courtesy Tent Schools International

(Photo courtesy of Tent Schools International)

That’s why Roost believes “it’s the job of the Christian educator to be able to listen to their fears and listen to what they’re saying and to be able to reroute them in a way that they can kind of exemplify Christ’s love.”

And the best way to show that love? By living it out. “You really have to just show it for a long period of time until the child sees it within the Christian teacher, and sees, ‘Okay, I can start to trust again.’”

But what about anyone who isn’t an educator in the refugee camps? If you want to find out more about Tent Schools International and the part you can play, we’ll connect you right here. Even if donating isn’t an option, prayer is always the most powerful tool believers can use to come alongside other Christ-followers around the world.

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