NM Teachers Have Tools to Ease 'Back to School' Transition
Thursday, August 17, 2023
Since the pandemic, back-to-school season brings up a lot of emotions for parents and kids, and can be even harder for those affected by a school shooting.
During COVID, most kids spent a year at home attending school remotely, which created significant stress, depending on the child's circumstances.
Katherine Ortega Courtney, co-director of the Anna, Age Eight Institute at New Mexico State University, said teachers who avail themselves of trauma training can make a big difference, because they consider how stress, fear and insecurity affect learning and behavior, and then interact with students accordingly.
"I've heard from a lot of teachers that kids are acting out more in the older grades and then in the younger grades that they don't know how to socialize," Ortega Courtney reported. "I don't think that we can fully understand the impact that this has had on our kids yet."
She pointed out teachers who have been trained in "trauma-informed" practices can recommend a behavioral health specialist if a students' behavior becomes disruptive to the classroom. The Anna, Age Eight Institute offers services to help families survive and thrive in 18 New Mexico counties.
The small, rural community of Aztec in northwest New Mexico was the site of a school shooting in 2017, which prompted mental health professionals to open their doors and visit campuses to help families cope.
Ortega Courtney emphasized children and families need to have ongoing conversations about their challenges.
"Even if there's a shooting in Albuquerque, kids in Santa Fe are like, 'Oh my gosh, this could happen in my school too,'" Ortega Courtney explained. "What we know is that when kids are in a state of fear and anxiety, their brains aren't processing the information we're trying to teach them."
When trauma is not addressed, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said there is an increased risk of mental-health disorders, substance use, and chronic physical issues. The agency also noted marginalized populations such as LGBTQ people, people of color and people with low incomes are disproportionally effected by trauma.
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