The 2022-23 school year is approaching quickly, and in some cases, has already started, depending on your location. Regardless of the first day of school where you are, teachers today are discovering that more and more of their students have been exposed to trauma which results in the need for trauma-informed practices.
Although students in today’s classrooms represent various backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, and norms, trauma does not discriminate. Unfortunately, many students entering the school building will have, or have already experienced some form of trauma.
Because of this, more than ever, it is critically important that educators and adult advocates in school are properly equipped to handle the varying degrees and challenges that trauma brings and are well-versed in trauma-informed practices for teachers.
What is a Trauma and Resilience Degree?
An advanced degree in trauma and resilience is one where professionals understand the impact of childhood trauma and mental health and their effects on students’ ability to learn.
Oftentimes, poverty is a factor considered in this degree program as well. Students in these degree programs are often classroom teachers, counselors, administrators, or other school support staff looking to learn, gain, and practice more understanding trauma-sensitive strategies that can promote change in both the school and district.
Many colleges and universities across the United States are offering either a degree program or certificate, with the main focus to prepare students in their professional field with an understanding of trauma, trauma-sensitive responses, and trauma-informed prevention and care. A trauma and resilience degree is not just for educators. Many counselors, therapists, and other professionals are seeking out these degree programs as the number of teenagers faced, or having already faced trauma, continues to rise.
Those in “helping professions” such as psychology, social work, education, nursing, public health, the health sciences, and law typically encounter the most traumatized individuals in society. Unfortunately, adverse childhood experiences are often connected to mental illness, substance abuse, and suicide. The need for more professionals trained in these practices is certainly evident.
Trauma-Informed Practices and Trauma-Informed Schools
A trauma-informed school is one in which all teachers, administrators, staff, and students recognize and know how to respond to behavioral, emotional, relational, and academic issues that impact and cause traumatic stress within the school system. A trauma-informed district would include all of the aspects of a trauma-informed school, but also add multiple stakeholder groups like families and community members to bring a holistic approach to the practice.
In a 2016 survey, the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) identified 46% of America’s children had experienced at least one adverse childhood experience, with the number rising to 55% for children aged 12 to 17.
The National Education Association states that one in five U.S. children had two or more adverse childhood experiences. These numbers are staggering, and schools and districts today are taking steps to become safe havens for students and educators alike.
For schools that are looking to become trauma-informed, or school districts that are seeking to be more cognizant of trauma and resiliency practices, the first step is to buy into the total school transformation and support process. A trauma-informed approach can, and has been, successfully implemented through a variety of ways:
- All adults in the building, workplace, setting, etc. must be aware and on board with the change. Shifting to a trauma-informed approach is a delicate process, and just like we take steps for our students to be successful, those transitioning to this type of model must take steps for educators to be successful.
- Professional development must be included, and some type of stipend must be provided. Often, many school employees use their own resources, time, and personal funds to support students dealing with trauma. Paid professional development represents a commitment from both school and district to combat the challenges of trauma.
- Trauma does not simply end at the ringing of a bell. For this reason, all stakeholders must be trained, including those that work in after school programs, community resource centers, and other facets of a student’s educational experience.
- Community partnerships must be forged so that stakeholder groups can positively influence students and reinforce already established ideals and values that the student has been exposed to in the school setting.
The Impact of Trauma-Informed Practices in Today’s Schools
The National Education Association identifies trauma-informed schools, districts, and systems that are more equipped to support the whole child, allowing students to come to school ready to learn and meet academic challenges by reinforcing the development of life skills, mental stimulation, and student learning.
Schools and districts that decide to train and practice trauma-informed beliefs and ideals are committing to their students, faculty and staff, and community at large. A trauma-informed practice is essential because it allows for educators the opportunity to collaborate in a way that supports a students’ mental and physical health so that learning can occur. Students who have experienced trauma to some degree, are proven to face greater challenges and difficulties in their lives, particularly the formative teenage years.
A trauma-sensitive school or district, and their sensitive and intentional practices can foster an educational environment where students have their most basic needs met — they are safe, loved, and confident in their ability to learn. A key ingredient in these trauma-informed practices is the modeling of appropriate behavior. Oftentimes, students have faced adverse life experiences because of some type of interaction with an adult. In trauma-informed schools and districts, students learn the differences between appropriate and inappropriate behavior and connect positively with faculty and staff.
As educators, we understand the power of school. We are committed to ensuring that school is a safe, welcoming, and inclusive place for all students, and where students can thrive, regardless of circumstance, zip code, or other demographic factors. Unfortunately, as educators, we also know and understand the difficulties childhood trauma can bring for our students, because we live it every day in our classrooms.
As the level of trauma rises amongst our students, seeking out varying degrees of training in trauma-informed practices and resilience strategies will better equip teachers, administrators, community members, and other key stakeholders to better serve our most precious resource: our children.
Have a passion for trauma and resilience in schools? Explore our available trauma and resilience graduate degrees and get started today!