More and more research and professional development has been centered on the increasing needs of students as evidenced by an increase in behaviours in the classroom. Specifically, there have been links to a person’s Adverse Childhood Experiences score and their risk for chronic disease. The higher a person’s ACE’s score, the greater likelihood of ongoing stress, anxiety, and risk of health and social problems.
Thankfully, research is being paired with ways to help or even reverse the effects of childhood trauma. Psychologists say that positive experiences in early life can help build resilience and protect a child from the effects of trauma. Having a grandparent who loves you, or a teacher who understands and believes in you may mitigate the long-term effects of early trauma. Brain research also shows that with these positive influences, new neural pathways can be built that aid in recovery and help people improve their lives.
This leads me to consider those educators in our schools who spends hours a day with the children who might be coping with the effects of trauma and displaying extreme behaviors as a result. Caring adults who walk closely alongside these children also wear the stress and anxiety that children display. If educators in these situations are not caring for themselves, this chronic stress can lead to burnout, otherwise known as “compassion fatigue” or “secondary trauma.”
It is important to watch for signs of burnout before it is too late, and before you find yourself unable to return to the classroom. If this is you, please, talk to someone. Talk to a trusted colleague, a caring friend, or contact CEBC. Cast your cares on Christ and allow His presence to fill you will strength, peace, and guidance. Find someone you can debrief stressful days with in a safe, nonjudgmental space. Call your health care provider to assess your level of mental health, and seek treatment such as mindful classes, or counselling, to recognize and help cope with the stress.
Your work as a caring educator is critical for the well-being of the children you work with. Your work will be most effective if you first take good care of yourself, and enter in to these relationships in a place of health and strength.