For most children, moving from preschool through to the senior years is a normal rite of passage. However, for the students who arrive at the doors to our Berry Street School, school has been another negative experience along a road marked by trauma and disruption.
While the Australian education system provides an excellent option for most students, for young people who have experienced trauma through neglect, abuse and family violence, it can be a real struggle to fit within the mainstream school system.
Research shows that trauma can adversely affect how the brain develops, and can impede a child’s capacity to concentrate and learn, affecting the rest of their lives.
A Model Approach…
Beginning his teaching career in the Bronx in the USA, Berry Street’s Tom Brunzell has seen many young people struggle with trauma in their lives. The problem was that while Tom had spent years in training to be a teacher, he had not learnt how to educate young people who had expressed chronic or traumatic stressors. So he set about changing that.
After several years developing specialist educational approaches in the US, Tom began working with the Berry Street team in Australia and internationally renowned trauma psychologists, to develop a unique education model. This model, developed for Berry Street’s School and expanding now to classrooms across Australia, was made possible with the help of our generous donors, and is now changing the lives of some of our community’s most vulnerable young people.
We may think that Australia is immune from high levels of children experiencing traumatic events, but unfortunately about 40 per cent of Australian children fit into this category.
Berry Street has an extensive understanding of trauma and how it affects young people and their development. The Berry Street Education Model combines that expertise with positive psychology and the science of wellbeing. By teaching students how to ground and centre themselves when they start feeling worked up or stressed, the model helps young people learn how to self-regulate both their minds and their bodies. This skill provides young people with more control over the way they react to stressful situations, so they can get back to learning.
The model has been so well received that we have now trained numerous mainstream schools so they can also use the same teaching and learning techniques. The outcomes within the schools who have adopted the Berry Street Education Model have been outstanding. We have seen academic results improve in both literacy and numeracy. Even more importantly, the well-being of students has increased and behavioural issues have improved.
The outcomes are exciting. Lives are changing for the better.