By Jeanie Tietjen, Assistant Professor of English at MassBay
on September 15, 2014
In the wake of Ferguson’s delayed start to the school year in response to the shooting of Michael Brown, National Journal reporter Janell Ross reached out to educators around the country—including the Center for Trauma & Learning in Post-Secondary Education (CTLPSE) at MassBay---regarding the impact of trauma on academics. Referred to me by the Trauma & Learning Policy Institute (TLPI), Ross and I discussed some of the relationship between violence and learning we see in post-secondary classrooms. Ferguson schools’ delayed opening offers an explicit example of less well-recognized reactions to violence we see in our classrooms every day. In describing student reactions to a campus safety officer in our classroom, I hoped to illustrate how community issues—such as students’ diverse experiences with policing—are not separate from teaching and learning. Campus and community issues do not exist distinct from one other, but mutually inform conditions and goals of both.
More specifically, Ross and I discussed how trauma and violence in private and community life clearly impact post-secondary issues such as persistence, retention, and completion. At MassBay, we are impressed by the tremendous resilience our students demonstrate: some of them have served in combat, survived domestic violence, political violence, or profound economic displacement.