Trauma-responsive teachers are critical for creating safe learning environments 
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Trauma-responsive teachers are critical for creating safe learning environments 

Childhood trauma is a prevalent problem. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that in a classroom of 20 students, at least three are likely to have had traumatic experiences. Children and adolescents with adverse experiences such as abuse, violence, displacement, and neglect can find it difficult to make friends, concentrate in classrooms and respond to fast-paced changes. Left unaddressed, trauma may push children to social disengagement and school failure. 

“Trauma inhibits student learning, drives disruptive student behaviour leading to disengagement and increases teacher stress and attrition,” said Head of Deakin’s School of Education Professor Damian Blake.

“At a societal level, trauma is costly too. It is estimated that annually unresolved childhood trauma costs Australian taxpayers as much as $24 billion,” Professor Blake said.

Childhood trauma impacts teachers in the classroom 

A recent Australian study of 749 teachers showed that more than half of respondents reported being stressed due to environmental factors, such as students’ disruptive behaviour. The study also revealed some of the teachers considered leaving the profession.

Deakin’s School of Education Senior Lecturer, Dr Tebeje Molla said teachers were faced with unprecedented levels of trauma among their students after three years of major disasters, including the Covid-19 pandemic, bushfires, and floods.

Teachers learn how to diagnose student behavioural problems and, in return, protect themselves from the adverse effects of students’ emotional pains.

“Teachers are dealing with highly traumatised students from refugee backgrounds as well as victims of abuse and domestic trauma. Students in foster care and those who experience extreme poverty or identify themselves as LGBTQ+ are also likely to experience trauma that interferes with their learning and social interactions,” Dr Molla said.

“In schools where trauma is not recognised as a serious factor that affects engagement and learning, survivor students are less likely to get the necessary support. Often traumatised children are restless and aggressive and get labelled as ‘bad’ and their suffering is missed.”

Understanding trauma gives teachers confidence  

Educators are often the first responders to children with traumatic experiences. When educators have the relevant knowledge and skills, they can play critical roles in creating a safe and supportive learning environment.

Deakin’s School of Education Dr Nicole Downes, Lecturer, said a trusting relationship between the student and teacher is key. “Education is a protective factor for children. Educators who understand the nature of trauma and its impacts on children’s behaviour, learning and wellbeing are better capable of responding to the unique challenges faced by children who have experienced adversity.”

Deakin’s Graduate Certificate of Education (Trauma-Responsive Education) is offered to qualified teachers, early childhood educators, youth workers and those working in humanitarian settings. This one-year part-time course is taught online, and there are Commonwealth Supported Places available.

The course teaches the skills and understanding needed to create a safe, supportive, and trusting learning environment for all students, including those impacted by trauma.

Graduates will gain a deeper understanding of events, experiences, and effects of trauma. Guided by social justice and practice architecture theory the course provides conceptual exploration and practical case studies relevant to helping traumatised children and young people thrive.

Teachers learn how to diagnose student behavioural problems and, in return, protect themselves from the adverse effects of students’ emotional pains.

Dr Downes continued, ‘Educators who truly understand the nature of trauma and its impacts on children’s behaviour, learning and wellbeing are more confident and capable in practice. They are better positioned to increase the wellbeing and educational outcomes of vulnerable children.’

Find out more here Graduate Certificate of Education (Trauma-Responsive Education) | Deakin 

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