Educators

When there is a phrase “school to prison pipeline,” something is very wrong with the state of education in this country.

– There have been over 170 school shootings since Columbine.

– 1In 2015, students living in poverty exceeded 50%.

– More kids & parents are spending more time online than ever before.

– One million teachers change schools every year.

– And 40-50% of teachers quit in the first 5 years of teaching.

Is this the new normal?

Could it be that we are a country with massive unresolved trauma, and our kids are simply communicating through their behaviors?

“More students need more attention and novelty, while displaying heightened emotional volatility, and lacking healthy relationship skills.” Romero, Robertson, Warner, Building Resilience in Students Impacted by Adverse Childhood Experiences, 2018.

In a 2014 Journal of Juvenile Justice study on ACE’s, Michael T Baglivio and team saw suspending or expelling students from school as removing students from a safe environment and described it as deprivation.  They believe school staff are in the best position to help students learn behaviors that build resilience and strengthen self-regulatory skills. (Baglivio, et al 2014)

We can reprogram and develop our brains and nervous systems, but we can’t remove a habit without replacing it with a better one. If you think of behaviors or habits like a crutch, we have to consider allowing our body to heal, and build the ground up under our feet before kicking away a crutch, otherwise they will fall or simply pick up the crutch or another kind of crutch again.

As many people in education have high ACE scores, we need an effective way to reflect and process our own traumas so we do not pass them on, and so we can model successful behaviors. A big factor in this is our work-life balance, and the amount and kind of self-care we receive is integral.

When educators don’t know about ACEs, and how to shift their relationships with traumatized kids, they will refer many students, especially from low income families, to detention, suspension or expulsion for defiance, which in California is now illegal, or at least to be tested for behavior disorder classrooms. “Teachers will continue to misinterpret behaviors until kids develop drug addiction, bully others, become bullying victims, commit suicide or mass murder at school.”  Romero, et al 2018.

Anyone who has ever flown commercially has heard that we have to put on our own masks before assisting others.  And we must support teachers to keep breathing oxygen through professional development and school structures.

“Professional development for educators focuses on what to do for students.  Even when a school district adopts a socio-emotional curriculum, the training doesn’t start by examining the needs of employees first….  Teachers need to know themselves well, identify their coping strategies and triggers that may cause irrational reactions…. Just one behaviorally challenging student in your classroom can easily have you crashing down the spiral of burnout before you even realize it. ” Romero, et al 2018.  If a daily practice of Self Care isn’t a priority of yours, what kind of service are you offering when you are not at your best?

When we are mindful of the effect our triggers have on us, and can find compassion for it rather than shame, the triggers lose their power over us.  No solution is found in shame.  Self Care can help us cultivate patience, let more roll off our backs, and keep our prefrontal cortex and its functions more available to model behaviors we want to see in our students.

“Self Care is an ethical imperative.”

​~ John Norcross, PhD and Jeffrey Barnett, PsyD