Allow me to celebrate with you, this very special year, the 10-year anniversary of my first book, Why Students Underachieve. The book that wouldn’t stop writing itself as I tried to fall asleep at night. I gave in, got out of bed, and recorded the stories of the most troubled and beautiful children I have ever had the privilege to serve. They taught me the profound effects that trauma has on learning and behavior, and what we must do differently in order to be effective.
The book was easily 20 years ahead of its time when I started writing it, and still remains the only one of its kind. With a historically large lawsuit against Compton Unified School District now under way, and the current demand for “trauma-informed” practice in schools from Walla Walla, Washington to Kansas City, Missouri, Why Students Underachieve may be coming into its time of recognition. The attempts we have made to educate traumatized youth without the guidance of Why Students Underachieve have been limited at best and harmful at worst.
Not only trauma but also chronic stress is preventing children from accessing their educational opportunities.
Chronic stress has the same impact as trauma on the brain, learning, and behavior. Technological gadgets, social media, and a 24-hour news cycle are contributing to the overwhelming experience of both chronic and toxic stress, setting up our students for less balance, more addiction, and tremendous anxiety.
I wish my work had become less necessary by now, but the opposite is true. Why Students Underachieve didn’t just teach us about the effects of stress and trauma on children, it taught us about ourselves. It isn’t just about children in schools; it’s about all of us, as we navigate – with our baggage – the challenges of this information age and technological world. We’re all sleep-deprived, stressed out, and out of focus. The very specific and evidence-based tools we need in order to be more effective and content are detailed in every resource I’ve written, so please, don’t wait for things to get worse. Get started today. There’s so much hope and relief for us all.