Today’s guest author is Tammy Wynard. Tammy is an assistant professor of health sciences and program director for the online graduate certificate in Trauma-Informed Educational Practices for Children & Adolescents at North Central College in Naperville, IL. To learn more about Tammy, please read her biography or reach out to Tammy firstname.lastname@example.org to connect!
“This certificate program fundamentally changed how I see and deal with students whose behaviors are considered troublesome, annoying, manipulative, etc. All behavior is a form of communication. Instead of asking what is wrong with these kids, I now know to ask what happened to them.”Susan, Adolescent Hospital Educator, 2021 graduate Trauma-Informed Educational Practices for Children & Adolescents
In the fall of 2021, North Central College in Naperville, IL welcomed the newest cohort of students for the online graduate certificate in Trauma-Informed Educational Practices for Children & Adolescents. Educators and community health professionals have chosen to enroll in a nine-credit time-intensive, 24-week academic program, despite the pandemic related stressors on their work and personal lives. The program was established before the pandemic, but most chose to register because they knew it would be essential to learn how to steer through the challenges during and post-Covid. Centered on a foundation of public health concepts, it provides concrete understandings of the influence of toxic stress on brain development, learning, and health. In the program, the students and faculty navigate the sensitive areas of defining the broad meaning of adversity and trauma and their impacts on the developing child and teen, as well as learn about individual small- and large-group strategies to assist students with regulating their feelings and figuring out how to create a framework for micro and macro systems changes in our communities. Students begin working in class one and finish in class three constructing a seminar on childhood adversity and trauma-informed practices for their chosen target audience.
Opportunities for trauma-informed care can range from minor adjustments, such as allowing a child who struggles with sensory overload to use noise-canceling headphones or a hand fidget, to large-scale policy changes, such as legislation requiring pre-service education and health care programs to have high-quality, evidence-based trauma-informed educational practices training in their course work. These proactive and responsive approaches circle back to shaping our communities, classrooms, doctors’ offices, places of worship, and workplaces with design for compassion and healing instead of continuing to manage the effects of adversity and re-traumatization by default, and it is even more critical as we continue to “re-enter” routines following the pandemic.
We are at a pivotal point in recognizing the interwoven infrastructure of inequity and the frequency of traumatic events in most of our lives. Learning about the impact of traumatic events on the brain and body and shifting to a trauma-informed lens is not optional anymore. Policies, procedures, and expectations steeped in discrimination are re-traumatizing. We perpetuate this cycle when we do not take time to personally and collectively reflect on how to change and shift to trauma-informed practices, which continue to hurt our communities, especially those that have historically been marginalized. The readings, discussions, and reflections are intended to educate and challenge misperceptions and biases so personal and professional growth can occur. Collaborative learning through purposeful course design, assignments, and assessments lends itself to meaningful interpersonal connections with classmates and professors.
“I’m going to be honest when I say I usually stay in my lane at work and do not typically rock the boat. However, within the first couple of weeks of taking this class and learning the basics of trauma, I’ve shared the information I’ve learned with many people. Their reaction is the same as mine as I’m soaking all of it up – they are shocked and intrigued by the facts. Some of the people with whom I’ve shared with are my Principal and Learning Support Coach. Both want to pick my brain and have me lead a staff PD about being trauma-informed and how we, as a staff, can help support students by using this lens. I’ve learned that all it took was sharing my journey so far through conversation and openly suggesting that this topic would be beneficial for all educators to learn about and dive into. Because of the positive reaction I received and the openness to do something about it, I am willing to question and help change policies and procedures since I know it will help our students be more successful and comfortable. I know advocating for racial justice definitely won’t be easy, but voices are heard in numbers, and we have to start somewhere.”Elizabeth, 4th grade elementary school teacher, reflection statement after the conclusion of the first course in the program
The program was designed with expertise from external and internal advisory board members who were community and school professionals and is built on the triangulation of the program director’s experience working in public health, school health education, and trauma-informed practices. The spring 2022 cohort for the program is currently enrolling through mid-December and will begin on January 10, 2022, and the fall 2022 cohort will start on August 24, 2022. The cohort size is limited to twenty students.
Photo: Tom Gill Creative Commons some rights reserved