VOICES: Address trauma to increase resilience in teachers, administrators, parents and students



A Gallup poll found that 44 percent of K-12 workers were burned out, with teachers reporting the most burnout at 52 percent. In order to address burnout and empower students, teachers, parents and administrators have to approach strategies with a trauma-informed care lens. Trauma-informed care recognizes the presence of trauma symptoms and acknowledges the role trauma may play in an individual’s life- including service staff.

Administrators are faced with addressing a myriad of concerns of a fast approaching school year, due to the devastating impact of the pandemic, political unrest, staff shortages, and lost instructional time.

The trauma-informed care lens directly addresses the “we’ve always done it this way” of thinking, while bringing emotional well-being, including physical and mental health to the forefront. We can no longer rely on pre-COVID practices, mindsets and routines to carry us through. We must create pauses to constantly stay present and uplift the students and staff to press forward. These pauses, intentional hiatuses, or breaks are needed to humanize the emotional wellness needs of students, teachers, parents and administrators.

Using the act of “Pausation” to navigate this challenging time can help. According to the Oxford Dictionary, Pausation is “The action of pausing; temporary cessation of activity; a pause, an intermission.”

Administrators can provide staff with emotional wellness professional development to help their teams feel seen, holistically, beyond their jobs titles and duties. Schools across the country are expanding the lens of professional development that includes all front-facing staff, including custodial and cafeteria staff, in learning how to use trauma-informed best practices that create common language and build a sense of safety and trust.

Students need time to readjust. This time needs to be built into the schedule. There is a need for more group and individualized resilience student coaching sessions to build trust, promote and create safety and empower students with healthier, new perspectives. Using trauma informed resilience empowerment activities help students identify, manage, or uncover the hidden biases that hinder their personal growth, personal happiness and productivity.

Educators can focus on holistic goal-setting, which is to ask themselves, ‘What is my intent for my students?’ It is a tall task at times, to not only teach, but also influence students. On top of those aspects, students come with all sorts of other needs, whether psychological, behavioral, or physical, that must be met. Setting and sharing goals with students helps the multitude of constraints that often hinder a student’s learning progression.

Active listening is an important skill. It is the aspect of critically analyzing and reflecting on what students are communicating, both verbally and nonverbally. Educators must understand their students, and what better way to understand students than to listen?

Another skill is compassion. Schools must realize that students and parents are not perfect, that they have struggled in various ways through the COVID-19 pandemic, and that their education is more of a journey than thinking about the final destination. It’s a level of understanding that only comes from having empathy for our student’s lived experience. Without understanding their lived experiences, there can be a disconnect and lack of empathy. Educators can be intentional about nurturing, creating deeper levels of understanding of their student’s social emotional needs.

As emotional wellness consultants and trauma informed coaching, we understand that there has to be intentional compassion towards the students we serve. Understanding the needs and desires of our students can assist with student attentiveness and academic improvement. Teachers’ roles have expanded. They are not only subject matter experts, they are resiliency resources. Students need to be able to develop coping mechanisms just as much as learning academic content. There is a heavy burden placed on student’s ability to juggle the demands of educational requirements while managing their emotions.

While we prepare for a new school year, it is imperative that educational institutions intentionally focus on mental health to improve emotional wellness to decrease stress, increase retention and improve graduation rates. Not all students are impacted by the pandemic equally, as inequitable access to housing, income, education, and healthcare are now taking an extra toll on how students are showing up to class.

We must value teachers, students, staff and administrators beyond their titles in the school building and classroom. We can do this by being willing to offer grace with the understanding that grace is not the absence of accountability.

Dr. Eric and Life Coach Phillitia Charlton are the founders of Charlton Charlton & Associates Emotional Wellness Firm. You can learn more about them at www.charltoncharlton.com and contact them at info@charltoncharlton.com.

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