Supporting the Staff at a Trauma-Informed School

Joshua Kaufman (bio) emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and caring for the staff at a trauma-informed school.

Certainly within a trauma-informed school we need to focus on the faculty, the teachers, administrators, and other school staff. How are we providing them with training to be able to understand what they're looking at when they're interacting with a student who may or may not have been trauma-exposed? And further, how are we supporting teachers, recognizing that day in and day out they're interacting with tremendous pain, tremendous suffering?

The stories that children bring onto campus certainly can have an impact of its own and so trauma-informed school systems also really need to focus on being secondary trauma-informed systems.

Certainly the beginning is awareness. Understanding that we as school personnel can be impacted by the stories our children bring is very important. The second thing that we can do is put into place strategies that really support and encourage self-care, whether it's an opportunity during staff meetings to discuss, whether it's something as simple as a bowl of fruit in the staff lounge or some healthy living magazines, and certainly understanding the ways in which trauma-informed systems can also become trauma-exposed systems.

How do we create dialogue among the school staff and between staff and administrators? Certainly within trauma-exposed systems, the system itself can sometimes become toxic. How are we creating those pathways and those avenues to be able to provide support to all of us?

When we're talking about a school staff, we're talking about school personnel. It extends beyond teachers to include others, to include the custodial staff and the cafeteria staff, to include the office technicians and the other school aides and support personnel. Within a trauma-informed school we also need to think about training teachers and other school staff to recognize that they themselves can play a really important role when responding to children that are in crisis and responding to each other when they're in crisis.

So how do we focus on supporting each other and supporting ourselves, building resilience, whether it's another faculty member who is having a challenging experience or whether it's a student? And so creating the conditions that enable such a school I think involve training, involve communication, certainly involve skill development, but ultimately begin with awareness.

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Excerpted from an interview at CBITS Summit 2013 in Santa Monica, CA.


More About "Secondary Traumatic Stress"


More From Joshua Kaufman (bio)

  • A Trauma-Informed School

  • Screening Students for Trauma Services