On June 4 and 5, Ohio Christian University hosted over 150 participants attending the Southern Ohio Trauma Informed Care Training.
OCU undergraduate and graduate teacher education students as well as area educators, pastors, administrators, and social workers listened to informative sessions covering topics ranging from classroom teaching to social work case management. They engaged in dynamic discussions, break-out activities and tasks that raised questions and prompted fresh thinking by even the most inquisitive participants.
Hosted by social workers Amanda Knotts and Bryston McKnight of The Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities and Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services, the training’s main theme was how to best help traumatized children enrolled in public school classrooms. The presenters hit head-on with force and passion the need for teachers and service providers to not only become informed but also transformed and compelled to take action.
Trauma is caused to anyone impacted by an event, or series of events, through physical, emotional, or social actions or behaviors that cause harmful, sometimes life-threatening, effects on mental, physical, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Explaining that the majority of children, teens, and young adults have experienced traumas and are presenting one or more symptoms, the expert instructors presented best practices to help the workshop participants gauge pupils’ circumstances that impact their learning ability. “Showing an understanding of their organic situations,” participant Carrie Kerr explains, “can make all the difference in showing pupils that you really care about their well-being.”
To get the most from this training, participants recalled specific techniques for avoiding re-traumatization while administering self-efficacy of resiliency. For example, if a teacher suspects a pupil has been abused, the teacher should not ask questions that prod the pupil. However, if the child is willing to talk, then first carefully listening followed by speaking with a guidance counselor about completing an ACE Score assessment for that pupil will help gauge their exposure to and degree of abuse.
Understanding these scores, Knotts and McKnight explain will not necessarily solve the pupils’ problems, but it certainly is helpful as the teacher seeks to build trust and decrease fear, emotional injury, and physical injury, and to preserve the relationship in the classroom. “If a child acts reserved in class, but you know they play basketball, make an effort to show and support that,” explains McKnight. “You wouldn’t believe how open-doors conversation can bring to healing trauma.”
ACE scores, self-efficacy, and avoiding re-traumatization are key techniques educators can use to produce successful student skills in the classroom that will carry over into traumatized children’s adulthood. Participants discovered the science behind traumatized children’s decisions, patterns, and maladaptive behaviors. The presenters busted common myths. In turn, participants asked questions that tested assumptions through hands-on activities, questioning, and commentary.
Creating a warm and open atmosphere through group activities, participants learned not only how to approach children authentically, but how to predict, practice, and plan while reflecting, honoring, and connecting with those in whom they make contact.
As a former teacher and now department chair of Education, Valerie Jones encouraged participants to “use your connections to make connections.” For educators, social workers, or professionals who work with those going through traumatizing situations, learning to help others through distressed circumstances is imperative to our identity and character as servants of Christ’s body.
“We provide these trainings because we want to help educators be armed with all the tools necessary to be an excellent teacher today, as well as give our OCU Teacher Education students professional development activities to help them prepare for the classroom and connect with educators and administrators,” concludes Jones.
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