Many K–12 students are experiencing ongoing life stresses. Recognizing this can help educators respond effectively to their needs.
Those of us in caregiving fields have long recognized that trauma is toxic to students’ brains and spirits as well as their bodies. Most researchers now view trauma as resulting not only from catastrophic events, but also from ongoing stressors like divorce or mental illness within the family. Research by Felitti and his colleagues in the late 1990s1 explored how 10 “adverse childhood experiences” (ACEs) affected people’s health as adults and found that almost 25 percent of their original sample experienced two or more adverse experiences as children (Felitti et al., 1998).
Looking at Felitti and colleagues’ list of adverse events (which includes experiences like a parent going to jail, the death of a loved one, or substance misuse in the home), teachers will likely realize how prevalent traumatic experiences are among today’s students. The ACEs study has been replicated over time and has since included looking at the impact of ACEs on children.2 As education professionals, we can no longer ignore this issue and its impact on student learning.