Trauma-resilient practices are the next step in helping teachers effectively support students affected by childhood trauma, a growing epidemic among our youth.
A new program that trains and certifies schools and educators called Trauma-Resilient Educational Communities (TREC) is based on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) science and protocols. Three schools of Learn4Life, a network of 85 public high schools, have earned accreditation by completing a 20-hour curriculum that supports educators in identifying trauma in students. It helps build resilience to life’s ups and downs, develops healthy relationships and practices restorative justice rather than punishing students who act out because of trauma.
Trauma in students can manifest in different ways, such as truancy, poor performance and even behavioral problems. Long utilized in healthcare industries, trauma-resilient care is becoming an essential tool for educators, especially at the high school level.
“We know that before we can reach students’ heads, we need to reach their hearts,” explained Craig Beswick, trauma specialist at Learn4Life. “With a societal cost of $458 billion to treat this epidemic, moving from ’informed’ to ‘resilient’ practices will benefit everyone.”
According to Beswick, the Learn4Life students who engage with TREC resiliency programs and social-emotional learning curriculum:
- Earn 17 percent more credits each learning period than non-TREC-engaged students;
- Graduate at a six percent higher rate; and
- Are less likely to be suspended or face other disciplinary measures.
“One of our principals told a student who was misbehaving that we were not going to punish him but wanted to find out what was going on and figure out how to get through it together,” Beswick explained. “The angry student’s whole demeanor changed, and he downshifted past the fight or flight stage and was ready to have a meaningful dialogue with his teachers.”
Tabitha Elwood, an English teacher at Learn4Life in San Diego, said the TREC program has helped her and her colleagues to cultivate a culture of caring rather than complaining.
“We’ve learned to pause and choose our responses. It’s empowering to make an individual choice with organizational ripples,” she said. “TREC is transforming us and our teaching practice as we listen to our students’ stories and speak into their lives in a truly trauma-informed way.”