Teachers and Trauma

Marsaili Morin and Cicely Bergsma

Sehome high school has created a new policy for the staff, including mandatory book groups for all teachers. Groups of teachers are split up randomly to choose a book out of a few given options. Once a month in the morning they talk about what they have learned from their reading. A particular book that caught the eyes of many teachers is called “Trauma Stewardship: An everyday guide to caring for self while caring for others”. 

The Book Club- Once a month, the teachers meet up in their small groups to talk about what they’ve read so far, “Just talking about the book has helped,” Gwen Nyman said.

Why are the topics of trauma and self care important to read about , and how do the relate? Because you can learn how your teachers are learning to work with, and handle student problems that may be outside of the school setting. 

According to Dominic Ghiradini (Spanish teacher), the central theme of Trauma Stewardship is that teachers must be, “taking care of ourselves as we strive to take care of people who have experienced trauma”. Ghiradini notes the book points out the necessity of prioritizing oneself while caring about students. “It’s possible to empathize with other people’s experience without taking on their trauma as our own,” Ghiradini said. This is often referred to as “compartmentalizing”, a skill that can be applicable for all people, as well as teachers. 

It can be easy to get caught up in the emotions and problems of others, especially for particularly empathetic individuals. “Secondary trauma is real, which is feeling traumatized or affected by other people’s trauma. It’s real and it’s worthy of addressing. It’s hard work but it’s worthwhile” said Ghiradini. Trauma Stewardship  also provides crucial insights into the human condition that often go overlooked. “The book talked about just recognizing the quality of life; the tragic and the joyful can both exist at the same time and they are both real”, said Ghiradini. 

Dominic Ghirardini proudly holds up “Trauma Stewardship”

Some teachers were reluctant to read this book at first due to the gravity and severity of the main topic. “At first I didn’t want to read it because I thought it was about reading about trauma,” Gwen Nyman (English teacher) said, “We watched the TED Talk by the author and she talked about how in her job, in the medical field, she realized that she was taking on her patients trauma and she is trying to figure out ways to deal with that for her own self care.” This is not a problem unique to the author, but rather something teachers and staff frequently face within the Sehome community. Most teachers have over 200 students walk through their classroom doors each day, and with them comes emotions and problems that come from their life outside of school. Teachers, being the helpful people they are, can feel a toll because of the many different situations they have to deal with for different students. 

The teachers reading Trauma Stewardship have a few significant takeaways. One being the importance of not taking students trauma on as their own. However, this is not to say that educators shouldn’t empathize or care about their students; just that they must separate themselves from their students troubles. Although, sometimes “secondary trauma” is unavoidable, and when it arises taking care of oneself should be a number one priority. We can all employ the concept of “trauma stewardship” into our own lives, by empathizing with others while still maintaining boundaries and taking care of ourselves whatever that may look like.