Supporting students is the essence of education. It transcends grade levels, subject areas and test scores. A single compassionate act from a teacher, administrator or staff member can change a student’s life. Serving as nurturing figures in the lives of children requires patience and empathy. CASDA faculty members Dr. Jennifer Bashant, Dr. Sherry Dickinson and Rebecca Gardner presented a workshop entitled “The Impact of Childhood Trauma” on April 20 to help educators develop their understanding of the complex and painful issues confronted by many students.
Several CASDA faculty members have worked with schools to provide academic and behavioral supports for at risk students. Their engagement with these students illustrates the fact that challenging behavior, poor academic performance and apathy are often reactions to significant trauma in their life. Rebecca Gardner reflected that “seeing the film, ‘Paper Tigers’ brought the issue of childhood trauma into focus.” The film utilizes the seminal Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs concept as a framework for understanding how traumatic experiences directly impact both a child’s behavior and long-term health. While the study offers harrowing evidence of the devastating effects of trauma on a child’s development, it also suggests that this damage can “be offset by the presence of one dependable and caring adult.” Ms. Gardner also stated that the goal of “The Impact of Childhood Trauma” program was to “help educators develop the skills and access the resources to become that caring adult which all students need.”
The conference began by showing “Paper Tigers” in four sections, pausing at critical points to ask attendees to reflect on the film and how it could apply to their own students and schools. Several participants were reduced to tears. Viewing the film and engaging in the accompanying exercises and reflections led educators in attendance to express a sense of urgency regarding childhood trauma. They articulated a strong desire to share this information within their districts and lead an effort to strive to develop more trauma-sensitive schools.
“The Impact of Childhood Trauma” presentation by Dr. Jennifer Bashant, Dr. Sherry Dickinson and Rebecca Gardner embodies CASDA’s efforts to serve as a catalyst for meaningful change in schools. Their experiences with struggling students led them to seek out research and resources to help teachers and school leaders develop a greater understanding of the challenges facing many students. These efforts empowered the educators in attendance to become “that one caring adult who makes a difference.”