Many teachers understand and have sympathy for students with rough home lives, but we need to move beyond feelings and act. Students who have experienced trauma are not lazy, explosive, or defiant- they are in survival mode. Their brain develops differently and teachers need to use trauma-informed practices in our classrooms.
Sing, Unburied, Sing is drenched in adverse childhood experiences and follows JoJo and his sister Kayla as they leave the familiarity of their grandparents’ home and dying grandmother to go on a road trip with their distant drug-addicted mother to pick up the children’s abusive father from prison. JoJo serves a dual role as a child and as a father figure to his toddler sister, a role I’ve observed many times in real life. He is the consistency throughout the chaos. JoJo stole my heart and I mourned more deeply for him with each page.
The trauma present in the lives of JoJo and Kayla, while horrific, is not that unusual in our world, and is a powerful reminder to all of us who work with children. In fact, trauma was pervasive throughout all of the generations represented in the novel. Immerse yourself in this book, enter into the children’s lives, weep, then dry yourself off and do something because as Jeanne Ray said of another book, “None of it happened and all of it’s true.”