Survey: Teachers need training in trauma

With students returning to school after long closures, trauma-informed approaches in teaching may be more valuable than ever before. Yet 7 in 10 educators don't feel prepared to implement such practices.
By: | May 8, 2020
Half of educators don't feel adequately prepared to recognize signs of trauma in students. Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on UnsplashHalf of educators don't feel adequately prepared to recognize signs of trauma in students. Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

Nearly all educators (98%) agree that training in trauma-informed classroom practices is something all teachers need. And 82% say part of the role of teachers and staff is to connect students experiencing psychological trauma or distress with mental health support services. But 7 in 10 do not feel adequately prepared to implement trauma-informed approaches in teaching.

That’s according to a survey of 8,054 K-12 educators across 11 states, conducted between November 2018 and March 2020 by Kognito, a developer of role-play simulations to help prepare professionals and students to lead conversations in real life to improve social, emotional and physical health. Also sponsoring the survey was The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools and Mental Health America of Greater Houston’s Center for School Behavioral Health.

Only half of the educators surveyed even feel they are prepared to recognize signs of trauma in their students. Yet supporting students during the COVID-19 pandemic and their return to school may require trauma-informed training more than ever.

As Adam D. Brown, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone in New York, explained in an article for the academic medical center, some children and adults may experience traumatic stress that challenges their ability to cope. Typical reactions that children age 10 and younger may exhibit after a traumatic event include unwanted thoughts of images, negative feelings, avoidance of reminders or problems with attention, and arousal and reactivity symptoms such as being startled more easily or having an increase in stomachaches.

“Shifting to a trauma-informed practice is an evolution that will take place over days, months and years as educators learn to recognize the many ways that trauma impacts students and how they can transform their teaching to make students feel safe, valued and welcome,” says Jennifer Spiegler, senior vice president of strategic partnerships at Kognito. “And it’s a process that has to be supported across the school community, including policies related to discipline and restorative justice.”

Still, even a short PD offering can help educators develop attitudes and behaviors in line with trauma-informed practices, Spiegler says. Kognito’s subscription-online experiential training program for school staff called “Trauma-Informed Practices for K-12 Schools”, which takes about 30 to 45 minutes to complete, is an example.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools is one district using the training, which all staff are being asked to complete before the beginning of the new school year, Spiegler says.

Additional resources for educators are available through the Attachment & Trauma Network and The National Child Traumatic Stress Network.


Also read: Trauma-informed teaching relies on trust


Melissa Ezarik is senior managing editor of DA.