Trauma Responsive De-Escalation by Micere Keels | Book Review

Author: Micere Keels

Publisher: Cardinal Publisher’s Group

Published: August 1, 2022

Genre: Education, Self-Help, Psychology

Pages: 107


“De-escalation [is] most effective [through] emotional neutrality…” – Micere Keels

Education has the detriment of being a corporate factory line where teachers are sellers and students are consumers. Knowledge and critical thinking is secondary to money and money making. The humanities are pushed aside for the lucrative promise of majors like business, math, and science. Schools are emotionally, intellectually, and morally bankrupt. A slew of sociopolitical red-tape bureaucracy plagues the education system. A system that should be less of a system and more of an open, progressive culture. Trauma Responsive De-Escalation by Micere Keels aims for this educational reformation.

Keels is an Associate Professor for the Department of Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago. She is also the founding project director of The TREP Project (Trauma Responsive Educational Practices) which focuses on factors of race-ethnicity, poverty, and trauma as they influence child development and jeopardize the quality of education for students. Her educator’s guide, comparable to Zaretta Hammond’s Culturally Responsive Teaching, is a practical overview of the mental health in youth and debilitating conditions sometimes out of their control. Empaths who are teachers will already be familiar with the intuition outlined in these pages. For those educators who struggle to love all kids unconditionally, there is a reason for this displacement. A maladaptive paradigm in the school system: administration versus teachers versus parents versus students.

One culprit and inciting force for these didactic debacles are derived from the imbalance of emotions and their resulting actions and behaviors. Students are finding out who they are, overthinking, distancing and forcing themselves from and into their peer groups. These inner and outer conflicts that lead to iniquities stem from and are compounded with the inequities students suffer. Keels takes a social-emotional learning (SEL) approach, breaking down the mind of disenfranchised students while providing considerate, discerning, and sensitive entry into their lives.

Her strategy of emotional neutrality allows emotions to surface without reactions being the decisive mode of interaction. Emotional neutrality does not numb yourself from emotions, it raises your self-awareness of them. Interpersonal self-regulation, a practice Keels supports, becomes an act of trust as both parties realize the productivity of positive emotions and the regressive nature of negative emotions. This process allows a self-reflective model for students to see, adapt to, and adopt within and without the classroom.

This reviewer was a teacher in the traditional classroom until he was let go at the end of his first year. The school he worked for was underdeveloped, underfunded, and unprepared for itself and its students. A teacher alone can only do so much to exact positive outreach and change; he was fortunate to reach a few students. When schools like his are unwilling to prioritize the right changes due to self-congratulatory, toxic favoritism and solipsism among faculty members and leaders, students suffer, rebel, and reach apathetic declension.

Charity begins at home, but when it does not, society trickles down this expectation, responsibility, and more onto teachers. Teachers are no longer teachers, they are surrogate parents and psychiatrists for hundreds of student-patients, five days a week, 180 days a year, for years to come. The problem is a catch-22. Give a school too much money and it will misappropriate its use for self-interest and expensive yet lucrative distractions like sporting events. Give a school too little and it relies on putting funds back into redundancies followed by more misappropriation. Had this former educator had Keels’ handbook, it would have buffered the lack of support he faced and helped him consciously recognize and rehabilitate the elephant in the classroom: perpetual cognitive biases in a failed institution.

Education’s faceless fortitude and frequent passivity today can be chalked up to economic enterprise. Replace critical thought, culture, and a democracy with profiteering, crony capitalism, and an oligarchy, and you get narrow-minded, materialistic masses. Each generation is different than the last, attitudes and behaviors are always changing, unpredictable as the mind is complex. However, under an education-as-corporation protocol, if values become too subjective or too objective, then the troubled, recalcitrant, and impressionable minds of youth will remain learning to accept things rather than question and know the truth of things.

One truth is that one educator, one framework, can never account for all these solutions of differentiated instruction, nuanced interventions, and system-wide improvements. Another truth is that, just like some people never learn, some schools never learn either. Trauma Responsive De-Escalation seeks a better future in education, starting at the root of the student’s personal narratives, offering restorative measures through diversity, equity, and inclusion, and emphasizing self-sufficiency to manage and change the narrative both on and off the page.

Final Rating:

Green Rose


Skunk and Badger #1 by Amy Timberlake | Book Review

Author: Amy Timberlake

Illustrator: Jon Klassen

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Published: September 2020

Genres: Children’s Fiction  

Pages: 136


“Not everyone wants a skunk.”

– Amy Timberlake, Skunk and Badger #1

Animals paint an unlikely, but possible, analogy for humans in countless fables. Personified, they hold up a mirror to the reader, showing our imperfect nature. The animal kingdom, of course, is fraught with unforgiving tooth-and-claw indelicacies. Sometimes, Skunk and Badger teaches us, nature can be forgiving. Badger is a rock scientist and excavator who lives in his Aunt Lula’s brownstone. His work is solitary and all Badger requires is silent execution. A knock on the door interrupts his study, from rose-colored Skunk who is in need of a home and is offered room and board at the brownstone from Aunt Lula. Playful misunderstandings, magical hard science, and whimsical madness ensue for the curious roommates in the picturesque home ground of North Twist.

The characterization and onomatopoeic burbling of instincts are thoughtful and familiar. Badger and Skunk use the brownstone out of necessity, but the first’s austerity contradicts the latter’s audacity. The subtle ironies too (Skunk does not clean, but recycles) are welcome, unexpected spins on the all-work and all-play duo’s dynamic before they balance out. Amy Timberlake with Jon Klassen share a similar synergy comparable to Roald Dahl with Quentin Blake: stark, solemn, and remarkably silly. A poignant and palatable sense of change as good, or that anyone can change, and the contagions of cynicism, criticism, conformity, and complacency, Skunk and Badger paves the way for doing the right thing and for meaningful and respectable friendships, even with ourselves.                

Final Rating:

Green Rose