Teachers Helping Teachers With PFA—LPC

Marleen Wong (bio) shares a powerful example of a teacher-to-teacher model of PFA—LPC.

Teachers have begun to ask us, "How can I help the teacher in the classroom next to me? How do I help my friend in the school who's gone through a school shooting and is not doing well? I know who this person is. They've been a terrific teacher and now I just see them and they are not doing well at all."

So we've come up with a kind of teacher-to-teacher model. And I thought about natural ways that one teacher could speak to another and still maintain their confidentiality; still may be able to support without making it a big deal.

We talked about the beginning of the day when she saw her come out of the parking lot, and maybe that was a natural time to talk. So it's always good though to open up, especially if you know the person, about, "I'm concerned about you. I've looked at you these last — watched you these last couple days and you're just not the way you were before the shooting happened. Tell me, how are you doing? What's going on?"

And that is an important conversation because you really do want to listen. There's nothing you have to say except to ask the open ended questions.

And so with this particular teacher, what she said was, "I'm just having a hard time coming to school. I wasn't in the school when it happened. I happened to be just outside. I was getting something and then it occurred." And she said, "It's funny. Even though I wasn't in the middle of it, I heard all the screams. I heard the children being killed. And I don't want to be here. I just have a really hard time. So it's a hard time getting to school but the hardest time is being in the parking lot."

Her teacher friend says, "Well, maybe that's really something you should talk with the psychologist about, the social worker about. This is not an uncommon — did you know that this is part of what happens to people after trauma?"

And the other teacher says, "I feel like such a wimp because I wasn't there. I wasn't in danger, but I'm just thinking all the time about my child." And so she's listening. She's identified; she's connecting with them. As she's connecting with these issues she's trying to protect them by referring her. And now she's going to teach a little bit. She's going to model the behavior.

She's going to say, "You know, I went through the same thing and it lasts different amounts of time for different people, but it's natural. And it's really important that you talk with someone about it. Why don't I come with you? We can — let's go together. Let's talk with the school social worker, the psychologist, because they're the experts on this. And maybe it would just help so that you could figure out some ways that you could feel safer about leaving your child, but also safer about being in school."

And it wasn't that it was a panacea, but that teacher felt she wasn't alone, that there was someone who really noticed what she was struggling with. And somebody who literally walked her — took her hand and walked her in, because there's a tremendous reluctance for students or faculty to go and seek help.

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Excerpted from an interview at CBITS Summit 2013 in Santa Monica, CA.


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