Wounded Students Need Healing Before Learning Can Happen

Some of the students in our schools are more than at-risk.  Some of them are wounded and the strategies to help them are different, according to Joe Hendershott.  Joe is the founder of Hope For the Wounded, an organization to support those who work daily with wounded kids.

Joe’s background is in education.  He’s been a teacher, assistant principal and principal in traditional and alternative settings.  Since 2006, he and his wife Dardi have led Hope For The Wounded and Joe has delivered presentations and facilitated workshops across the US and beyond.

During the National Dropout Prevention Center’s (NDPC) Annual At-Risk Youth Forum, I was able to sit in on one of Joe’s breakout sessions and in the first five minutes he was able to share clarity about students, their needs, and why often our best-intended efforts fail to help them as we think they should.

Joe mentioned this piece of data from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network:  one out of every four students in our schools have experienced serious trauma in their lives.  This is profound.  Life experiences can define the lens in which we see everything around us.  When we fail to recognize that impact and help students in meaningful ways, we can often interpret their behaviors errantly.


Joe and Dardi Hendershott and their nine children

This is why Joe defines the wounded student as being different than one who is at-risk, or who is exhibiting at-risk behaviors.  According to Hendershott, there is a difference between the two and teachers and school leaders both need to recognize the difference and have the tools necessary to appropriately help.

At your school, do you have about a fourth of your students who don’t perform as well as others?  Most schools everywhere I go have somewhere around that 25% threshold of students that need additional assistance.  Some of these students respond to what we do but others don’t.  What if we are prescribing treatments for at-risk students when instead we should be using trauma-informed practices to help wounded students heal?

Joe Hendershott’s work will appeal to your heart, but it has an equal fit in your head.  When you reflect on your work with students, you will quickly think of students who were suffering from traumatic incidents, sometimes early in their lives and sometimes ongoing.  What if we had another set of skills to help them to heal and give them hope?

Take a visit to Joe’s website, hope4thewounded.org   You can get an idea about the work that his organization is doing and how you can join the movement.  Here at Principal Matters!, we’ll be featuring his book on our Saturday Professional Reading Shelf, so more to come here about the wounded student.  If you reflect on this concept, you’ll find yourself in the work and then you’ll be ready to take the next step:  identify the students (you probably already have) and provide them hope and healing.






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