As the tragic effects of opioid addiction continue to grip the nation, in Ohio efforts to address them are well underway through initiatives by organizations such as Propel Ohio and Ohio Christian University.
On Nov. 17, Teacher Education Professors Valerie Jones and Angela Flowers, along with student majors Maddy McCain and Emily Morton, attended Propel Ohio’s Collegiate Leadership Conference on the effect of poverty and the opioid crisis on Ohio youth. They joined some 600 attendees in the University of Akron’s historic Quaker Station conference center to hear Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman join keynote speaker activist author Marian Right Edelman in discussing how primary and secondary education can impact and alleviate this societal crisis.
Propel Ohio promotes civic engagement and inspires undergraduate students to grow into civic leaders. The one-day statewide conference was one of five regional gatherings orchestrated to engage teacher education students and faculty on issues that affect childhood poverty, including food security, inequities in education, and homelessness, in addition to additive drug and substance abuse.
The speakers’ consensus is that proper education, beginning in early childhood with pupils three years of age, is a key to addressing these problems. A typical scenario is economically distressed parents moving from using expensive prescribed pain-killers to taking heroin, acquired illegally at one fifth the cost. Pregnant mothers pass the addiction to their children born addicted with irreversible brain damage that causes loss of impulse control, irrational behaviors, and learning disabilities. The parents’ loss of employment during the Great Recession induced wide-spread depression and drove the opioid crisis.
The Propel Ohio conference attendees learned change comes through teachers educated to be ‘trauma-informed’ and trained in classroom practice of empathetic understanding, caring, and showing love to suffering pupils who witness parents using drugs, over-dosing, fighting, and divorcing. Within OCU’s current teacher education curriculum students have been learning how to be aware of such devastating outside influences on pupils. OCU-educated teachers learn how to identify situations that call for attention of professional counselors, nurses, and parent surrogates.
For Dr. Jones, OCU’s Teacher Education Department chair, “This event was enlightening and empowering. Although the event was secular and solution approaches discussed apply in public schools, many participants were Christians who understood the importance and benefit of applying the Christian principles of empathy, compassion, and Godly love in classrooms. Takeaways are that empathy, understanding, and discipline through love are powerful tools teachers can use to help their pupils overcome societal ills of which they are unwitting victims.”
Another outcome of this participation is that the Teacher Education Department will host Trauma Informed Care and Practice, a two-and-one-half day teacher training workshop for the Pickaway County Board of Development Disabilities.
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