Helping at-risk students address adverse experiences is critical
- Butler University College of Education Assistant Professor Lori Desautels writes for Edutopia on the need for educators to properly address students' adverse childhood experiences due to the impact they can have on brain development, behavior and a variety of other educational and life outcomes.
- With students spending around 1,000 years in school annually, faculty and staff members have an opportunity to build positive relationships and offer support to troubled youth, with the quality and quantity of those relationships correlating with their potential impact, she writes.
- To create resiliency "touch points" — interactions with trusted individuals who offer these supports — Desautels recommends that schools become adversity- and trauma-informed, target interventions to transitional grade years in particular, plan the interactions without scripting them and develop a metric for their effectiveness.
As Indiana principals Amber Schroering and Chris Renner noted during a session last week at the 2018 National Principals Conference in Chicago, students bring more baggage to school than the supplies they're carrying on their backs. Their identities, in-school and online relationships, home lives, abuse, what just happened on the bus, hormones, academic standing and a lack of resources are all part of the additional weight they carry. And the prevalence of that baggage can vary from district to district. Low-income, inner-city or rural schools and districts will likely see more of it than, say, a more affluent suburban community.
To some extent, schools and districts have already been tried to address these concerns with more social-emotional learning programs, mental health resources and holistic, restorative approaches to discipline. In many cases, adverse childhood experiences are at the root of disciplinary issues, so addressing them appropriately can change the trajectory of a student's life. But doing so requires administrators to put effective and substantial training opportunities in place so educators know how to help students identify and work through these problems. At last week's National Association of Elementary School Principals' conference, retired principal and former National AfterSchool Association CEP Paul Young stressed that it's important to involve after-school providers in addressing these challenges as well.
It will never be an easy process, but it's a worthwhile endeavor for every student whose future is positively impacted by the additional attention, understanding and belief in their abilities.
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