Is your school a buffer zone against toxic stress?

The challenge of the fast pace and the strain of living in the 21st century is the chronic stress of keeping up with volume of information, expectations and adverse experiences that leads to stressors of daily living. Adults have become good at adjusting to and compartmentalizing these stressors. Children and adolescents however are struggling to keep up and are in fact caving under the weight of the stresses. In addition, many children lack adequate nurturing and supports needed to give respite from these toxic stresses. These children come to school over burdened with stressful issues in the homes and their own developmental changes.

Teachers and education professionals are on the front lines and, in many cases, have longer contacts with the student(s) who has experienced traumatic stress. These professionals are often recruited based on their knowledge, skills, and attitude to solely impart cognitive development of the children. Research also shows many of these teachers are not trained in child trauma. Also, many of the teachers come to the same classroom with their own baggage of day to day stressors and that of teaching these children who have become "wired" differently from the adult’s point of developmental reference.

Educational systems on the hand understand that learning is an ongoing effort and not even the best graduate programs can produce teachers ready to meet all demands. The future training of teachers must therefore put in consideration the outcomes expected of the children to be resilient, optimistic, happy, and balanced emotionally, socially, and cognitively. To this end, owners of schools and school systems must provide training that build capacities in teachers to provide safe, nurturing, and stimulating classrooms, where environmental stressors are minimized and traumatic stressors identified and managed appropriately.

The National Council, USA defines a learning organization as “one that invests in staff and has clear expectations about skill development. It’s a place where staff development is a priority and people served get the very best of care”. As the schools hire for talented teachers and train them for skills that provides for shaping a well-rounded youth, they are investing in the people employed and the people served, the students. Part of this investment must also include training teachers on toxic stress and how to help children in their classroom cope with the effects of personal or community stressors while in school, making schools trauma buffer zones for children.

 

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