Author: Micere Keels
Publisher: Cardinal Publisher’s Group
Published: August 1, 2022
Genre: Education, Self-Help, Psychology
“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.