The Chalk Blog

When Empathy Hurts

Trauma in the Classroom
hugging little girls (3)With the increase of schools and educators using the best practices of trauma-informed teaching, it is important to note that trauma-informed schools should include measures of care for all involved. Working with students who have experienced trauma takes a toll on teachers, support staff, specialists, and administrators in the form of secondary trauma or vicarious trauma.

But what are secondary trauma and vicarious trauma? 

According to The National Child Trauma Stress Network, “Secondary traumatic stress is the emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma experiences of another.” This can happen suddenly after hearing about one event. 

Vicarious trauma, empathy fatigue, and compassion fatigue are terms that are often used interchangeably to describe the permanent change to a service provider after multiple exposures to hearing about the traumatic experiences of others and continual empathic engagement. It can look like burnout (feelings of exhaustion, isolation, etc.), but it is much more pervasive and impacts all aspects of a service provider or educator’s life. 

These are real occupational hazards when working with students who have experienced trauma.  

How can impacts to professional individuals be mitigated? 

To combat the effects of compassion fatigue or secondary trauma, taking care of the professional individual’s body, mind, and spirit is imperative. This can be done through self-care or through programs and activities developed and supported by leadership. 

Check out a few great ideas: 

  • EXERCISE: Take a look at this teacher finding balance through exercising her BODY.
Blog 6.28.19
  • STRESS BUSTERS: Read this article outlining some great tech-based methods to help you calm your MIND and decrease stress. 
  • SPIRITUALITY: Review this webpage that outlines methods that can be used to take care of the SPIRIT. 

If you would like to learn more about secondary trauma, vicarious trauma, or trauma-informed teaching, check out our courses:

**These courses can be taken together or separately and in any order. 

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Topics: Instructional Strategies, Trauma Sensitive Learning

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