The first year of any educator’s career is often challenging, and it takes some time to get used to the workload that comes with being a classroom teacher. The teacher training I underwent to enter the classroom supported me in lesson planning, breaking down standards, and classroom management. What I was not prepared for, and what was perhaps the most challenging thing about my first year of teaching, was supporting my students in processing and living with the trauma they experienced. I tried to remain strong for my students, listen to them and provide strength, and I quickly realized that I was well on my way to burn out and needed help myself. After several episodes of anxiety and very clear signs of early depression, I decided to seek out the help of a therapist, and I am happy to report that this decision is what has sustained me as I begin my third year of teaching.
Coping with the impact of others’ trauma can have long lasting, very draining effects on anyone, this is especially true for teachers. Trauma Aware Schools has put together a resource that outlines the risk factors and causes of second hand trauma, as well as the signs, and common methods to provide support. The resource outlines steps that the school team can implement to ensure that procedures to prevention are in place as well as personal forms of prevention that can be implemented such as “practicing self-care through regular exercise, a healthy diet, and sufficient sleep.” The key is to not just hashtag and preach about self care, but to implement daily practices that can sustain teachers when the going gets rough during the school year. Our jobs require that we take care of so many others, it’s time we start taking care of ourselves, too.
Harvard’s Graduate School of Education published a piece outlining actions that school teams can take to build an awareness around mental health and secondary trauma specifically. The piece stressed that, “for the success of their students and the health and success of their educators, it is essential for schools to acknowledge, appreciate, and address the reality and impact of STS head on.” The stigma that exists around mental health will only be dismantled through our honesty in sharing our stories and experiences. When someone is sick, we seek out a doctor. When there is a fire, we seek out a firefighting team. It is perfectly normal to seek out mental health support when one is in need of it. If our teachers aren’t healthy, it becomes more challenging for students to learn and have joyful classrooms. Let’s start taking better care of the people who care so much for others.
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Daniela is a first generation college student who is heavily involved in education in her home district, West Contra Costa Unified. After becoming a mother at a young age, Daniela’s passion for education justice only intensified and she began to fight for an equitable education for all children, regardless of background or zip code. Daniela played a key role in organizing parents with the California Charter Schools Association and is a firm believer in school choice for all families. She is currently a Lead Organizer with Students for Education Reform, organizing college students around education justice issues in her home district. She was recently accepted into Teach for America and plans to continue impacting the lives of children in her hometown of Richmond, CA as a high school social studies teacher. Daniela is a UC Berkeley senior pursuing her B.A. in Legal Studies and Education along with her 4 year old daughter and husband. Daniela is a firm believer in that every single child is capable of meeting high expectations if given the correct support. Daniela hopes to be a provider of that support.