Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Safe Space

Though it's Spring Break in theory, I'm not much of a "break" type person.  Perhaps it's my own tendencies to be anxiety driven...but that's a whole post in and of itself.  I've been reading and strategizing and reading some more.  I've been gathering and collecting and laminating...crafting and sewing and die-cutting. 

I'm committed to my students' healing. 

Until we get to the core of the human condition and meet our students where they are, in their messiness and brokenness, we will (in our pursuit not to leave any child behind) forcefully mold them in unrealistic pursuits of intellectual perfectionism until there is nothing left but a still empty, soul-less shell of a man.

Not here.

In this classroom - the persuit of healing, health, and being whole people comes first.  It has to.

"Learning anything other than what is required to survive is relegated to irreverence.  Very little information taught in schools, including reading, writing, and math, is directly related to survival; this information is thus perceived to be of little or no value to many abused [and neglected] children." - (Ziegler, 61) 

As such, we must set the stage.  A stage that strategically and consciously calls the survivors out of survival mode and into the realm of safety.

This weekend I carefully and thoughtfully created a safe space in my classroom for the disregulated (both hyper-aroused and dissociated).   We know from research that parasympathic response can increase the levels of arousal in the brainstem; consequently, increasing heart rate, blood pressure, stress response, and cortisol, which kills neurons. I could write forever on this...but I digress.

I poured over the overt and covert behaviors of trauma victims:
  • Agression
  • Explosiveness
  • Reactiveness/Impulsivity
  • Grandiosity
  • Demanding
  • Blaming
  • Self Abuse
  • Lying
  • Sneakiness
  • Spacing-Out
  • Silliness
  • Sexualized and often covert acts....
....and I began to design a space to help meet the needs.... It's far from complete, but it's a start!

The space is set apart, but not isolated - it's meant to be a time IN and not a time OUT.

Some of the items in our safe space are:

A special bowl shaped chair to sit in (safety)
A weighted blanket (sensory input) - I made this and it came out awesome!
Affirmation Ring - A ring of affirming truths
Deep Breathing Book
Balloons (for deep breathing)
Bubbles (for deep breathing)
A Pinwheel (breathing)
Glitter Jars (calming technique)
Various sensory balls (soft/firm/foam/rubber).
Playdough (non-verbal expression) 
Sand Tray (non-verbal expression)
Feathers (breathing)
Mandala Pages (non-verbal expression)
Various Books focused on social skills
Paper (non-verbal expression)
CD Player/Calming Music

Here are some pictures:

Skills Wall (will be changing the over-stimulating polka dots):
  •     I will choose to be in control of my own actions.
  •     I will take responsibility for the things I do or say.    (Focus Mechanism: Blaming)  
  •     I feel  ________________ when ________________________.   
  •     (Focus:  Helping to give my students a voice / words) 
  •     Emotions Chart    
  •     (Focus:  Helping to give my students a voice / words) 
  •      How is Your Engine Running?  (Visual)
  •      (Focus:  Emotional Regulation) 

Skills Wall   

Testing Out the Weighted Blanket...I want one for ME! :)

Manipulatives Tub

Phase 1:  Creating a Therapeutic Classroom... well underway!   More pictures to come soon.

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