In an article from NPR, research from the University of Wisconsin has determined that young children who are maltreated have shown changes in brain function as adolescents. This change prevents them from being able to decide what is truly dangerous, or not. The following quote is from Ryan Herringa, one of the researchers and a psychiatrist at the University of Wisconsin:
“These kids seem to be afraid everywhere,” he says. “It’s like they’ve lost the ability to put a contextual limit on when they’re going to be afraid and when they’re not.”
This certainly extends to schools and classrooms! How can teens learn when the brain can’t tell them they’re safe? This information is validated in Eric Jensen’s work as well. In his work, Teaching With the Brain in Mind (2005), Jensen says:
“Students pay attention to content only when it is ‘safe’ to do so. Many do not feel safe enough to ignore teaching classmates and bullies. To student brains, that outside influence is a potential predator like a saber-toothed tiger. Some teachers call on an unprepared learner just to embarrass the student. In this risky environment, some learners cannot focus on content processing.”
All classroom educators, at any grade level, should pay attention to this research.