Healing Classrooms: Helping kids cope after crisis
December 20, 2011 by Jen Steele
|The IRC's Healing Classrooms help children in countries like Liberia that are recovering from crisis grow into happy, healthy adults. Photo: Aubrey Wade/IRC|
Jen Steele is the International Rescue Committee’s education program officer. She is based in New York.
My IRC colleagues and I know that children affected by crisis, whether war or natural disaster, need help restoring a sense of normalcy and safety in their lives. One of the best ways to do this is to reintroduce the familiar routine of school, where teachers can work with them over time to recover. Toward this goal, the IRC partners with schools in crisis zones to create “Healing Classrooms.”
The Healing Classrooms program trains teachers in special techniques that help them engage traumatized kids and create a secure and nurturing learning environment. Thanks to Healing Classrooms, girls surrounded by violence can feel secure going to school, and children living with disabilities can easily participate in class.
Since we started Healing Classrooms in 2004, we have been working with more than 5,000 teachers and 400,000 students each year in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan. Families in these devastated lands have lost loved ones, homes and jobs. Children often lack the coping skills they need to move forward with their lives.
We’re excited to know that our Healing Classrooms approach is working. One evaluation in Afghanistan found that kids were having fun learning in school. Another in Ethiopia stressed that teachers involved with the program felt empowered and more confident about their work.
Because it’s important to us to respond to the needs and preferences of the people we assist, we have developed a new tool to make Healing Classrooms even better. Our Multimedia Teacher Training Resource is designed by teachers for teachers to spread the latest methods of creating safe and effective learning environments. For example, we use video of actual IRC teachers at work in Healing Classrooms in an effort to communicate best practices.
The new training guide already has been put to use successfully in Iraq. Not only are children in that country learning more, they are also recovering from the trauma they and their families have experienced.
We’ll keep using this new tool to equip teachers in crisis zones with the skills they need to help their students grow into happy, healthy adults who can play an important role in their communities’ recovery.
For more information about the IRC’s Healing Classrooms and Multimedia Teacher Training Resource, contact IRC education program manager Heather Hansen.
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