Survive and thrive

Scrabble words spelling the word 'teach'
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Overview and learning outcomes

Chapter six focuses on understanding the impact of working with traumatised students on educators and educational organisations. This chapter is organised in the following sections:

  • The impact of trauma on educators and helpers
  • Self-care and managing secondary trauma
  • The impact of trauma on schools and other organisations
  • Becoming a trauma informed school

On successful completion of this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Understand the risks and impact of working with challenging students on educators
  • Identify key self-care strategies that teachers can use
  • Explain the parallel processes of working with traumatised students on schools and other organisations
  • Understand the key stages of trauma informed organisational change.

Introduction

Each year, millions of children are exposed to some form of severe traumatic event. Many of these children are victims of physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect. Many thousands more have been traumatised by natural disasters (e.g., tornadoes, hurricanes, floods), automobile accidents, drowning, community violence or interpersonal violence they witness in their own homes. The trauma suffered by these children is not benign. It can result in serious and chronic emotional and behavioural problems that are very difficult to treat. And each year, day after day thousands of teachers, caseworkers, police officers, judges, pediatricians and child mental health professionals work with and try to help these children. And each year, parents, grandparents, foster parents care for these children.

All too often the adults are working in difficult, resource-limited situations. The children may present with a host of problems that can confuse or overwhelm their teachers. The pain and helplessness of these children can be passed on to those around them. Listening to children talk about the trauma, trying to work in a complicated, frustrating and often ‘insensitive’ system, feeling helpless when trying to heal these children – all can make the adults working with these children vulnerable to develop their own emotional or behavioural problems.

The purpose of this chapter is to present an overview of the topic of secondary trauma. The goal is to understand how to better support traumatised students by making sure we are at our best. The better we understand how working with traumatised children affects us both personally and professionally the better able we will be to serve them. In order to remain emotionally healthy ourselves it is critically important that we understand how the elements of a child’s trauma can affect both individuals, like teachers, and organisations like schools. All professionals working with traumatised children can learn approaches and strategies to protect themselves from being emotionally overwhelmed by this work. In the end, the ability to help traumatised children depends upon our ability to stay emotionally healthy and motivated in difficult and often frustrating situations.

 

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