The process of becoming a teacher in today’s society is both exciting and challenging. Right now, I am lucky enough to be fulfilling my student teaching requirement with a wonderful and entertaining classroom of kindergarteners. In all honesty, I have been thoroughly enjoying my student teaching experience thus far. It has been both rewarding and insightful, plus I get to laugh every single day.
That said, there have been a few factors that I could never have prepared for prior to beginning at my elementary school. I understand that it is virtually impossible to consider all the aspects of what I would see in the classroom and prepare myself for them. But awareness is tricky in the sense that one cannot even know what they do not understand until they encounter it.
One of the factors that I was not ready for has to do with the varied backgrounds of the students. I knew that some of the students would come from low socio-economic areas that would lead to some shift in the way the class was run and structured.
I was definitely not prepared for the level of trauma that many of the students in the class possess.
Given that in an average class there is a myriad of personal backgrounds and experiences, one can expect to encounter trauma. Trauma can come in many forms, including homelessness, a family member that is incarcerated, child abuse, neglect and more.
In addition to all of this, there can be trauma that is not even documented or known. I knew that trauma in children could manifest outwardly in terms of social behavior and academic performance. That said, I didn’t realize how much this can affect students on a daily basis. Many students with traumatic experiences can have additional social-emotional, behavioral, and academic issues that directly impede their ability to succeed in the classroom.
As I participate in my student teaching, I learn more and more not only about the importance of sensitivity to students but also to how critical it is to pay attention to their experiences.I’ve also realized how important it is to also consider how the trauma of others can affect the teacher mentally and emotionally. Knowing that some students go home to have experiences that are potentially traumatic can be difficult.
For example, Edutopia states that more than half of students have experienced a traumatic event in their lives, and 35% have experienced multiple traumas (2017).
These numbers were much higher than I ever would have anticipated.
It is also very common for educational professionals who are directly involved with a large number of students with trauma to experience something called “vicarious trauma” (Edutopia, 2017). Vicarious trauma, if extreme enough, can affect someone in a similar fashion as someone with trauma.
However, I have learned that this is a reality that many teachers face. Given the current events of last week, particularly the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida just last week, the role of the teacher is growing and morphing to include potentially supporting students through traumatic experiences. It is likely that this will take a toll on the teacher if they are not fully aware of their emotional investment. We will have to remember how to support and address this not only in our children and students but in ourselves as professionals and educators as well.
So let’s make sure we are doing all we can right now for us and them.