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. On Thursday December 8th, on UAlbany’s East Campus, CASDA faculty members Dr. Jennifer Bashant and Rebecca Gardner presented a workshop entitled “The Impact of Childhood Trauma” 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 lives. 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 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.”
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 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 develop more trauma-sensitive schools. Small group discussions provided space to contemplate the long shadow cast upon students by trauma and uncertainty. In these breakout sessions, attendees focused on developing an action plan to create Trauma Informed Communities within their schools. These communities will function as a resource for educators hoping to learn more about this issue and will serve as a support and safe space for students struggling to cope with traumatic experiences.
“The Impact of Childhood Trauma” presentation by Dr. Jennifer Bashant 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 have empowered the educators in attendance to become “that one caring adult who makes a difference.”