Carrying their second backpack: understanding the lived experiences of teachers working with trauma-affected students during the Covid-19 pandemic
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This heuristic narrative study addressed the high prevalence of trauma that children in schools are experiencing and its secondary effects on those who work with them in schools. While there are plentiful studies to be found regarding the outcomes of traumatic events on children, little focus has been placed on supporting the educators who work with trauma-affected students. The purpose of the study was to examine the lived experiences of seven teachers in an urban school who self-reported as working with trauma-affected students, within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. An extensive review of literature was conducted that delved into the existing knowledge about the science of trauma, the concept of compassion fatigue, educating the whole child, and servant leadership as a method of support for teachers and students who are trauma affected. The primary study methodology consisted of in-depth interviews, observations, and document reviews. Additional data sources included co-researcher reported results on the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) survey (Felitti et al., 1998) and a preliminary survey which was used to recruit participants as well as to develop interview questions and supplement the findings pulled from the other data sources. Findings suggest that the experiences of teachers related to trauma, as well as their knowledge and disposition about trauma itself, contribute greatly to their overall lived experience in the classroom. A significant factor in the lived experiences of co-researchers was the change to virtual teaching and learning. An additional contributing factor was the co-researchers’ own ACE scores, as well as their experience with trauma-informed professional development. Additionally, co-researchers identified ways that trauma was a barrier for their students academically, behaviorally, and socially. Co researchers agreed that working closely with trauma-affected students has implications for their own overall mental wellness, as evidenced by feelings and experiences with burnout, emotional responses, and difficulty maintaining work-life balance. Relationships emerged as an effective way to provide teachers and students with some support. Additional helpful strategies were also uncovered including teacher protective factors and system supports including access to support staff. Grounded in the stories of the co-researchers, a model for administrators is introduced that provides actionable ways to support teachers working with trauma-affected students.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Review of the literature -- Methodology -- Findings -- Conclusion -- Appendix A. Initial interview protocol -- Appendix B. Follow-up interview protocol -- Appendix C. Observation protocol -- Appendix D. List of survey questions
Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)