The Think Space: Educating the Heart and the Mind for Success Within and Beyond the Classroom

Reading what is referred to as the purple book: Helping Traumatized Children Learn, constructed by the Mass Advocates for Children in collaboration with Harvard Law School, changed my life - both personally and professionally. Specifically, it helped to inform decisions around my own practice and inspired me to do further research around the impact of trauma on learning and behavior.  

As a result, I have a much greater understanding of how to effectively teach our students who have been most impacted by trauma and hope to be able to learn more and share what steps individual teachers and whole-school staff can take to become more trauma sensitive.

Of course, not all children experience behavioral challenges as a result of trauma. However, strategies that promote Social-Emotional Learning in our classrooms will support all students and contribute to creating a safe and supportive environment. One of the techniques that individual teachers can implement in their own classrooms, is the “Think Space.” This may not work for every child - but it does work for most. And, if implemented correctly, students will learn how to calm down on their own, make healthy choices, and feel successful. They will even start encouraging their classmates to use it!

The “€œThink Space”€ has become an invaluable tool in my classroom. Below are some ideas on how to get started in your own classroom!

  1. Helping Traumatized Children Learn (Susan Cole, et. al)

  2. Free to Feel: Social-Emotional Learning Helps Students Process Emotions - Think Space Replacing Time Out Corners (Kimberly Petalas - Baystate Parent Magazine)

  3. The Hechinger Report (by Jackie Mader, September 30, 2015): Teacher prep fails to prepare educators for diversity, child trauma, panel says


About the Author: Colleen Galvin Labbe teaches Kindergarten (Inclusion) at the Lee Academy Pilot School in Dorchester, a Boston Public School. She holds numerous district-level leadership roles, including being a new teacher mentor, peer evaluator, and member of the Professional Learning Advisory Board (BTU) that advises the district and union on what kinds of training and support teachers need to be successful.

At her school, she is a Kindergarten Team leader and a member of the Instructional Leadership Team at the Lee Academy. She is excited to be teaching a course about Trauma & Resiliency at the University of Massachusetts in the Fall, because she is so passionate about the importance of embedding Social-Emotional Learning in our classrooms, and creating Trauma-Sensitive Schools.