VEA Conference Offers Hope for Students Affected by Trauma
October 12, 2019
October 12, 2019
Miles Carey sees high-schoolers every day who come to class bearing the effects of traumatic life experiences. “We have students affected by alcoholism in the family,” says the Arlington Education Association member. “Some of them have had problems with the law. We’ve got lots of immigrant families, and some of those kids have had bad experiences in their home countries or their families have been split up.”
Those real issues being brought to school by a growing number of kids is why trauma-responsive practices were the focus of VEA’s 2019 Instruction and Professional Development Conference, held this weekend in Richmond. Abuse, neglect, family uncertainty, and hunger are all part of everyday life in our schools, too.
“My team has been working on restorative practices and I’m here to see what I can bring back for both our students and our staff,” Carey says.
Even pre-service teachers are feeling the impact. “Just last week in one of my practicums, I had a student acting out because of a traumatic situation in his life,” says Jessica Bailey, president of the SVEA-Aspiring Educators and a student at Shenandoah University. “He was hitting, punching, yelling, and running down the hall. This conference is exciting because there are so many other things I now know to do.”
None of that surprises Dr. Lori Desautels of Butler University, the conference’s keynote speaker and a nationally-known expert on young people and trauma. “Anxiety has become our new national learning disability,” she told the crowd on opening night, before offering a menu of strategies educators can use to help stressed students become relaxed and capable of learning.
In addition to Desautels, who also led several breakout sessions, members heard from Rodney Robinson of the Richmond Education Association, the 2019 National Teacher of the Year; Dr. James F. Lane, Virginia’s Superintendent of Public Instruction; and author and therapist Ronnie Sidney II.
Breakout session topics included community engagement, diverse children’s literature, using arts in instruction, understanding adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), teacher licensure, instructional technology, effective leadership, and social media.
VEA aims to play a leading role in providing educators with resources for students affected by trauma, said President Jim Livingston. The Union will be offering a webinar on the topic later this month.