Why I Teach at Cookson Hills – Karen


Cookson Hills takes an integrated approach that is much like a greenhouse, providing a safe place for tender seedlings to grow. If successful, the child develops a growth mindset and a toolkit to enable him or her to leave behind a story of a wounded heart and begin creating a better story. Teachers and houseparents are trained to recognize that bad behavior might have nothing to do with the math assignment or the evening chores, but rather a wounded heart that needs help verbalizing. As a survivor of childhood abuse, I feel privileged to live in this greenhouse. Every day is a new day to write a better story. But even knowing all this, I still need reminders from a faithful God.  

It was a warm October day and I had been teaching at Cookson Hills for three months. I was walking, rather wearily, to my apartment after a long school day. I was quietly crying and feeling sadness and grief for one of my students.

Her story was a difficult one to hear. Her trauma was evident all day long through her behavior in the classroom. She had a wounded heart and conveyed this pain in her six-year-old manner.

But today was different.

While the conflicts had been just as frequent, they were followed by actions that conveyed trust. During reading groups, she leaned over and laid her head on my shoulder. While walking to recess she reached out and took my hand. While painting scenery for a drama, we both ended up laughing and with green paint on us. And then, like flipping a switch, the conflicts would return.

So I was crying out to the Lord and asking why I was here at Cookson Hills.  I was so tired and weary.  It was only October and I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. Then in my heart, I knew my answer. I was here for this one little girl. My trauma could connect with her trauma. She was learning that I was safe and my love for her wasn’t dependent upon her behavior. I was still weary and overwhelmed, but I knew my purpose here. The Lord continues to bring little ones into my life who need a place of healing, and that is why I teach at Cookson Hills.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR — Karen Hodges teaches 1st and 2nd grade and lived in Alaska for 10 years. One winter morning she was late to school because a moose would not move out from behind her car!