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


Apple, Tree: Writers on Their Parents by Lise Funderburg | Book Review

Apple, Tree

Author: Lise Funderburg

Illustrator: Nathan Putens

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press

Published: September 2019

Genres: Biography, Nonfiction, Memoir

Pages: 232

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“I suppose there’s a pleasure in that wistfulness too–in remembering the way something was and holding tight to what will also one day be a memory.”                     – Lauren Grodstein, “Around the Table” from Apple, Tree

Childhood is reverse parenting. Growing up takes on the responsibility of becoming, which is found in the adults who rear the child. Growing down however leads one to becoming what is else, what is more, what is unexpected. Apple, Tree: Writers on Their Parents by Lise Funderburg explores the adolescent trappings and developments of its contributors, starting from the root and out to the branch where gravity took a hold of them and plotted them in front of the parental gaze. Far pass Freudian theory, this collection on child rearing and family dynamics informs the writer’s life as something both undesirable and desirable as bath time. The dichotomous relationship of the apple (child) and the tree (parent) can be felt first in the bifurcation by the comma in the book’s title. Difference within or between family members is not always apparent, but as the tree holds the apple, the parent holds onto the child, until the child notices just how far out of reach the parent is and vice versa. The proverbial fall experienced by these collected writers attempts to find out if this transition into adulthood should be a rude awakening or a heedful reminder.

A running theme in Apple, Tree is the child who believes to possess large philosophies while the parents have small ones. It is not until they have aged that they realize it is the opposite. In some cases, these philosophies are challenged. Reading Shukree Hassan Tilghman’s piece, “Lies My Parents (Never But Maybe) Should’ve Told Me,” one finds the impossibly delicate veil that lies between humoring a white lie and the, sometimes, harrowing truth at the end of its punchline. In Avi Steinberg’s “Household Idols” and Donna Masini’s “What We Keep,” stories of heirlooms are rummaged for in what would be the unmistakable home of an accidental, sometimes purposeful, hoarder. Some authors here have struggled with identifying with their parents, sharing similar appearance (“Sisters” by Ann Patchett) or judgment (“One Man’s Poison” by Kyoko Mori). A chance to pervade rather than drown in the genetic pool still exists yet. From her story, “Unlived Lives,” Laura Miller writes that parents “can be the most familiar people in the world and total strangers; they have a dark side like the moon, that’s invisible to us as long as we remain locked in the fixed orbit of the parent-child bond” (87). Dissidence and denial delineates and loosely defines the duality a parent and child share. Daniel Mendelsohn’s mother has a neat-freak personality, for example, causing her to chase the life she could have had by keeping her house a spotless sheen in the hopes that time lost will return to her. It is behaviors like this, the need to meet perfection, that leave both the parent and child less than imperfect.

Funderburg mentions in her introduction that Apple, Tree is an exploration of “the space between the apple and the tree…” She also quotes John Freedman as saying that this exploration of family is a “love [that] is in clarity, not sentiment” (Funderburg xii). Perhaps there is no one answer to all the unanswered questions children may have for their parents. Parents too, may not know or have all the answers themselves until their children come up with better questions. The theory that the apple does not fall from the tree must have some truth in it. Maybe the answers present themselves only in practice? Here is one more attempt to answer a proverb with another: when the apple is ripe, it will fall.

Final Rating:


Green Rose