Dealing with trauma is real

December 1, 2017
By Joan Elliott, Librarian/Manager Stewart Resources Centre

On October 4, 2017, a Twitter post by Emelina Minero, @CommKr8veWriter, resonated with many teachers. Entitled When Students Are Traumatized, Teachers Are Too, the author describes the case of a teacher who experienced vicarious trauma from the stories her students shared with her about abuse, hunger, violence and suicide. The article also outlines the impact of trauma on students and teachers, states the importance of working through the trauma with family, friends, colleagues and therapists, and emphasizes the importance of reducing professional isolation through finding a wellness buddy to provide support for wellness and self-care goals.

Susan E. Craig is a leading author in the trauma-sensitive schools movement. Her first book on the topic, Trauma-Sensitive Schools: Learning Communities Transforming Children’s Lives, K-5, states that trauma-sensitive schools “emphasize safety, empowerment and collaborative partnerships between children and adults.” The author integrates research on the neurodevelopment of children and educational best practices to provide new ways of managing the behaviour of traumatized students so that they are able to learn. She also discusses the emotional work of teachers and highlights ways of promoting teacher resilience.

Her second book, Trauma-Sensitive Schools for the Adolescent Years: Promoting Resiliency and Healing, Grades 6-12, outlines a trauma-sensitive approach to instruction that fosters student learning. Suggestions for creating a culture of connection and for facilitating positive peer interactions are included, along with a chapter about the effects of secondary trauma on teachers’ lives and the buffering effect of professional development in this area.

Other books in this field include: Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom, by Kristin Souers and Pete Hall; and Teaching to Strengths: Supporting Students Living With Trauma, Violence, and Chronic Stress, by Debbie Zacarian, Lourdes Alvarez-Ortiz and Judie Haynes. Optimizing Learning Outcomes: Proven Brain-Centric, Trauma-Sensitive Practices, a collection edited by William Steele, features contributions on such topics as creating a vison for a trauma-sensitive school, compassionate classrooms, teacher resilience, self-care and sustained effectiveness.

The September 2017 issue of Education Canada is devoted to the theme of well-being. Sue Roffey’s article entitled Creative Caring for Teachers: How a Whole-School Well-Being Approach Can Support Everyone’s Mental Health and an article by Katina Pollock entitled Healthy Principals, Healthy Schools: Supporting Principals’ Well-Being, both provide numerous suggestions for fostering wellness, from physical well-being to mental and emotional well-being.

Another article in the same issue, Teacher Resiliency: A Resource for Teacher and Student Wellness, by Susan Rodger, Kathryn Hibbert and Allan Leschied, presents an overview of the Teach Resiliency website at Built with significant teacher input and through a partnership among Western University, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Physical and Health Education Canada and The Cooperators, the site is designed to support the mental health of teachers and students. Tip sheets, podcasts and videos, along with a searchable database, quickly lead to information on stress, workplace health, resilience and mental health.

Another exciting resource is The Third Path: A Relationship-Based Approach to Student Well-Being and Achievement, by Thunder Bay, Ontario educators David Tranter, Lori Carson and Tom Boland.

The most recent addition to our collection of materials on well-being for students and school staff is Mindful Teacher, Mindful School: Improving Well-Being in Teaching and Learning. Written by Kevin Hawkins, who has worked as a teacher, social worker and counsellor in schools around the globe, this book explains how mindfulness is supported by evidence, how it can help manage stress and attend to self-care, and how it can contribute to the social and emotional learning and well-being of students.

To borrow these and other resources on trauma, resilience and well-being, please email