Of the approximately 74 million youth under age 18 in the US, two-thirds have experienced a potentially traumatic event by age 16. Traumatic experiences can impact a child's ability to learn and have lasting adverse effects on mental and physical well being. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated an already urgent need for more trauma-informed support for students and their families.
Recognizing the need for schools to better identify and support students who have experienced traumatic events, The Mayerson Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and the McKinsey Health Institute developed the Trauma-Informed Educator Training Series. It is a free digital training to support K-12 educators on how to be trauma-informed when interacting with students as well as their families and caregivers. Completed over four sessions, each about 45 minutes in length, the training addresses topics such as personal resiliency and supportive mindsets, addressing traumatic events in the community, being a trauma-informed mandated reporter, and addressing trauma with students, families and caregivers. With a focus on practical skill-building, the training is 80% skills focused with embedded interactive exercises to practice and apply practical skills around trauma informed care in the moment.
The training is rooted in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's 4 R's of a trauma-informed approach. Educators can use this framework to help them in the moment with students and families or in reflecting upon situations they face with students in or outside of the classroom. The 4 R's are foundational to being a trauma-informed educator, and consist of:
- Realizing the prevalence and impact of trauma. Trauma-informed educators would ask:
- What adverse childhood experiences have students in your classroom faced?
- What community-wide traumatic experiences (e.g., pandemic, racial injustice, natural disasters) may be affecting many of your students?
- How might these experiences be impacting a student's ability to learn and engage?
- Recognizing the signs and symptoms of trauma. Trauma-informed educators would ask:
- Have you observed a student that is behaving in a way that is out of the ordinary for them?
- What physical, cognitive, emotional, behavioral, or relational signs have you noticed that might suggest they could be dealing with the effects of trauma?
- Responding by integrating trauma-informed principles to create a safe and nurturing school climate. Trauma-informed educators would ask:
- Are you checking yourself for implicit biases that could interfere with building positive relationships with your students?
- What are you doing to help your students build effective stress management and self-regulation techniques (e.g., meditation, abdominal breathing)?
- How have you created a classroom environment that is safe (i.e., enables students to express themselves without fear or judgement) and brave (i.e., inspires students to speak honestly, encourages listening, and respects alternate points of view)?
- Resisting re-traumatization. Trauma-informed educators would ask:
- Are you being mindful of the mindset and emotions that may shape how a student instinctively responds to a situation?
- When implementing behavioral interventions, do you maintain a calm voice and body language and respect their personal space?