Elementary educators' perspectives on trauma-informed practice
While all children enter their schools carrying the weight of their young life experiences, some children carry the extra baggage of developmental trauma and the impacts of toxic stress. These children present educators with a responsibility to address their social, emotional, and mental well-being at school. Trauma-informed approaches offer teachers a lens through which to recognize and support students’ needs. This qualitative study investigates elementary educators’ perspectives on trauma-informed practice in order to better understand educators’ knowledge, experiences, and perceived needs to foster a trauma-informed practice. A needs assessment methodology was used to identify the gaps between educators’ existing knowledge, practices, and support provisions and evidence-based practices from the existing field of research. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews with nine participants and thematic analysis was used to identify emergent themes from the data. Theme 1, educators need an understanding and acceptance of their changing role, highlights the evolving complexity of teachers’ roles in addressing students’ social, emotional, and mental health needs. Theme 2, educators need professional development to understand trauma-informed practice, calls for training in order to be responsive to students impacted by the effects of trauma or toxic stress. Theme 3, educators need acknowledgment of how their current practice aligns with trauma-informed practice, discusses how many teachers’ practices are already somewhat aligned within trauma-informed practice. Theme 4, educators need supports for their own well-being, discusses the impacts of secondary traumatic stress. Theme 5, educators need a team approach, highlights practical supports for educators.