Trauma can have a lasting impact on all aspects of life. The sheer intensity of the experience can leave a person with a reduced ability to learn, especially if the trauma isn’t taken into account when developing trauma-informed school practices. The effects of the pandemic, for example, have touched everyone, including students. At Save The Music, we believe educators should be equipped with the basic knowledge and skills to approach teaching with a trauma-informed lens when their students are in need of support. 

Whether it makes one easily distracted, needing more time to complete tasks, or creates anxiety caused by the increased learning challenges, there are many ways trauma can affect how a student absorbs information and how they experience their day. But the good news is that trauma-informed teaching can help address these challenges and help students thrive in their learning environment.

But what is trauma, exactly? How does it impact education? And how can trauma-informed practice in schools be better used?

Let’s explore these questions below. Please visit Arts Ed Newark for more information about trauma-informed care in arts education.

What is Trauma?

Trauma is the response that people exhibit when experiencing a deeply upsetting or dangerous situation. People can suffer trauma in a variety of different ways, so the exact pattern can be hard to predict. However, trauma usually involves a shocking event or a continuous cycle of abuse or negative experiences.

For children, trauma may be overcome over time. But if the trauma is more severe, everyday situations like going to school may become very challenging.

To address trauma in students, it’s crucial to learn to identify the signs of trauma. For example, a change in behavior, becoming closed off, physical symptoms, and a drop in school performance can all be indicators of trauma. And a big part of trauma-informed education is being aware of these signs and knowing how to respond.

Trauma and Learning: How They Interact

The connection between trauma and learning is observed very often. It impacts learning ability, focus, and overall behavior. It’s unclear whether the impact of trauma may result in lifelong challenges or even develop into other learning disabilities. However, for students dealing with trauma, one thing is certain: having a trauma-informed learning environment is absolutely crucial if the student is going to succeed.

What is Trauma-Informed Teaching?

Trauma-informed teaching is a learning process that considers how trauma can impact a student’s learning ability and then uses this information to develop a more effective teaching approach.

For students suffering from trauma, education has to be more personalized, creating a safe and stress-free learning environment where students can feel understood, valued, and empowered.

By emphasizing consistency and utilizing social emotional learning tools and strategies, teachers can create trauma-informed instruction that teaches not just the main subject but also helps improve self-awareness, social skills, self-control, listening, and decision making. Learn more about social emotional learning and how it may be embedded into classroom instruction on our music education resources page.

Please know that teachers are not expected to be guidance counselors or therapists as those are specialized practices. Educators should seek the support of mental health professionals at their school if a student needs additional help. 

The Importance of Trauma-Informed Education

Implementing trauma-informed teaching is a vital part of putting each student in a position to reach their full potential. But it’s equally important for helping teachers do their job effectively.

Here’s how it impacts both:

• For students, trauma-informed care in schools can provide security and show that teachers understand and care about them. 

• For teachers, it can help connect with each student and be more mindful of how their past experiences might impact the learning process. It can also provide a set of tools and guidelines on how to approach different situations.

Trauma-Informed Practice in Schools: Tips and Strategies

Developing trauma-informed teaching practices takes time. But here are some helpful tips that will get you on the right path:

• Allow students to experience their emotions. Instead of trying to prevent it, have a process for students to take a break from the situation and reassure that their feelings are okay and valid.

• Communicate with the student’s parent or guardian about their behavior, progress, and challenges in school. Allow the student’s family to share with you what may be the cause of the student’s change in behavior or academic performance.

• Take into account the trauma the student might have experienced and practice self-awareness in your own words or actions. 

• Embed social emotional learning (SEL) core competencies into classroom teaching. SEL core competencies are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. For more information on how to embed SEL into your instruction, please visit The Center for Arts Education and Social Emotional Learning

Resources

The only way to become aware of trauma-informed teaching is to continually educate yourself on the proven practices and new research on the subject.

Here are a few resources that might be helpful:
What is Trauma-informed Teaching?
Trauma-Informed Teaching | Video Overview by Dr. Meredith Fox | TEDxFieldstoneDriveED
What is Trauma-Informed Pedagogy?

How to Incorporate Trauma-Informed Teaching in Music Education

Music therapy has been shown to be an effective method for helping children deal with trauma. Music educators are not therapists, but exploring musical ideas can be an effective way to encourage students to express themselves in the classroom.

For music teachers, showing interest in and awareness of each student’s background and life experiences and how those experiences may impact their learning can be very helpful. And then using the gift of music to help students express themselves and grow as well-rounded people is important. 

Therefore, the key to incorporating trauma-informed teaching into music education is to implement the best overall teaching practices while remaining aware of music’s potential to create a joyful and empowering experience for students.

Conclusion

Trauma-informed teaching is an integral part of helping students with past trauma succeed in learning.

At Save The Music, we cannot address trauma-informed teaching without our partners that specialize in this vital work. Please visit Arts Ed Newark for more information about trauma-informed care in arts education.

You can learn more about the benefits of music education and check out our resources for trauma-informed as well as social emotional learning on our music education resources page.