Schools must adopt strategies to help students deal with trauma
- More than 46% of children in the United States — roughly 34 million — have experienced at least one adverse childhood experience in their life, and at least 20% have had two or more, Edutopia reports.
- These experiences cause them to have toxic levels of stress that can cause behavioral problems and interfere with learning.
- However, schools and teachers can employ strategies that will support students emotionally, create a sense of safety at school, and develop the resilience students need to heal and to learn.
Education would be easy if all teachers had to do was connect students to information. However, students are complex humans who bring the baggage of their lives to school with then every day. Any student can be faced with an adverse childhood experience (ACE) any day, but for students living in poverty or in volatile home situations, these experiences can be a common occurrence. The effects of more severe forms of trauma can be far-reaching. In some research suggests that emotional trauma in children can have the same effect as a concussion.
Though the primary goal of schools is to teach students, this often cannot happen until the emotional issues are dealt with sufficiently. Social-emotional learning plays a big role in this process by teaching students to deal with stress. Some schools are expanding on this model through programs such as YouthThink, which focus on dealing with ACEs through social-emotional learning.
Schools also need to develop a strong sense of community so that students feel that school is a safe place for them to escape the stresses of their lives. Doing so may not only help the student, but it can also create in them a love of learning because they associate school with the more positive aspects of their lives. This sense of community and the use of social-emotional learning can also help if schools face tragedies as a whole, as in the case of the Sandy Hook tragedy. The reality is that most schools are now having to become more trauma-sensitive in order to create a positive learning environment.