Teachers also in need of trauma-informed care

Teachers nationwide are undergoing training to establish trauma-informed classrooms. They’re learning about the effects of trauma on students’ behavior, attendance, and academic performance. School administrators are also practicing new approaches to handling misbehavior with empathy and restorative justice. While schools are prioritizing trauma response for students, they often overlook addressing the trauma experienced by adults.

Following the introduction of trauma-informed care (TIC) in 2001, education has been at the forefront of exploring the links between body, mind, and behavior. As a trauma-informed care expert with a decade of experience, I’m pleased to see the widespread adoption of this approach. However, the need for supportive practices for educators remains unmet.

Although addressing students’ needs is crucial, sustaining trauma-informed care is challenging when educators themselves are dealing with trauma or chronic stress. Teachers may have training on the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACE) scores on students but lack support for managing their own trauma. The discrepancy between learning and personal experience can strain educators’ well-being.

Teaching often requires continuous giving, but what happens when educators feel they have nothing left to offer?

Empty Cup Syndrome

The concept of Empty Cup Syndrome (ECS) reflects the emotional depletion many educators face while expected to provide emotional support relentlessly. Burnout may lead to shame and blame rather than support. Despite discussions on improving teacher conditions, those facing bullying or exhaustion are often disregarded.

ECS is a genuine issue that necessitates systemic assistance. Resistance toward acknowledging educators’ struggles can hinder progress. Some school leaders minimize teachers’ emotional needs, dismissing their requests for support and proposing extreme measures like changing schools or careers.

Given the current challenges like the pandemic and school-related stress, incorporating trauma-informed care in schools is more critical than ever. How can we create schools that prioritize a holistic approach to trauma intervention?

Remember: Many Teachers are Trauma Survivors, Too

Teachers and administrators often cope with personal traumas, from childhood adversities to recent incidents like violence or assault. It’s essential to recognize their struggles and offer support. Just as we investigate students’ underlying issues, we should extend the same empathy to our colleagues.

Teachers may have visible or hidden challenges contributing to their stress levels. Collaboration and support among staff can help redistribute energy and alleviate burdens. By acknowledging and accommodating teachers’ diverse needs, schools can enhance overall well-being and retention rates.

Respect Each Other’s ‘Spoons’

Spoon Theory illustrates how individuals with disabilities manage limited energy reserves. Recognizing varying energy levels among educators is crucial. Through mutual support and collective strategizing, teachers can balance workloads and promote well-being. Simple measures like task-sharing and providing accommodations can have a positive impact on the school environment.

Prevent and Destigmatize Secondary Trauma

Addressing secondary trauma, a result of exposure to students’ and colleagues’ trauma, is integral to trauma-informed care. Offering resources like longer breaks, counseling, or support groups can help educators cope with secondary trauma. Investing in such support services can prevent high turnover rates and foster a healthy school community.

Supporting teachers with trauma-informed care is essential for creating a conducive learning environment for students. Prioritizing educators’ well-being is crucial in ensuring a sustainable and compassionate educational system.

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