Trauma Informed Teaching

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a two day training offered at NWTC called Crisis Intervention Partners. The training covered difficult, but important topics like mental health; suicide; special populations: veterans, children, and autism, and crisis deescalation; however, the component that really stayed with me was the topic of trauma informed care.

Trauma informed care is a response to ACES (Adverse Childhood Experience Study) that was conducted between 1995 and 1997. The study looked at the effects of childhood trauma including exposure to abuse (physical, sexual, emotional), neglect (physical and emotional), violence, substance abuse, mental illness, parental separation or divorce, and incarceration of a household member. The results of the study are truly staggering.  The more ACES that a child was exposed to, the greater their risk for

  • Social, Emotional, and Cognitive Impairment
  • Adoption of health-risk behaviors (smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, promiscuity, and severe obesity)
  • Disease, disability, and social problems
  • Early death

While researching more about the topic, I came across a documentary entitled Paper Tigers (Available on Amazon Prime). This documentary looked at students in an alternative high school in Washington State that had very poor student success outcomes. However, the school made a 180 degree turn around in student success when they moved away from a penal system of addressing behavior problems in the classroom to a trauma informed teaching methodology. The statement that really stood out to me was that instead of looking at a student and wondering/asking “What is wrong with you?”, the question becomes “What happened to you, and how can I support you?”

When you consider the results of ACES, more than two-thirds of participants reported at least one ACE, with 87% of those individuals reporting at least one additional (referred to as co morbid or co-occurring). When you think about that statistic, that means that potentially two out of three individuals that we encounter on a daily basis struggle with overcoming past (or present) traumas in their lives. Some are aware of these traumas and their triggers, while others may not be as self-aware.

One poignant quote from the training that stood out to me was, “It would be wise to assume that trauma may play in a person’s current life difficulties and that our job is to insure that our policies, procedures, activities, environment and ways that we relate and talk to each other creates a safe and trusting environment.”

Thankfully, there are guiding principles to help us respond to those in need:

  • Listen Actively
  • Validate (“That must be hard”; I am sorry you were hurt in that way”)
  • Normalize
  • Assist (Make referrals)
  • Avoid re-traumatization

We can do this by promoting an environment where we “understand the prevalence and impact of trauma; promote safety; earn trust; embrace diversity; provide holistic care; respect human rights; pursue a person’s strengths, choice, and autonomy; share power; and communication with compassion.”

When I consider these actions, I can see a lot our NWTC values. We have access to all the tools and services we need to effectively serve our students. We must each do our part to ensure that we all – students and faculty alike – enjoy a positive, successful experience at NWTC.

 

 

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