A few weeks ago, I did something scary. I made myself vulnerable to our staff in a meeting. I opened up about my adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
In the late 1990’s, a doctor from the CDC and a doctor from Kaiser Permanente set out to find connections between childhood experiences and lifelong health. They created a questionnaire and sent it to over 17,000 people in the Kaiser network. The results were astounding. The more adverse childhood experiences a person had, the more likely they were to have health issues. Someone with an ACE score of 4 had twice the risk of heart disease and cancer. Those with an ACE score of 6 or more, on average had 20 years lower life expectancy.
Of course, ACE scores don’t tally the positive experiences in early life that can help build resilience and protect a child from the effects of trauma. Having a grandparent who loves the child or a teacher who understands and believes in the child may help mitigate the long-term effects of early trauma.
So why did I share this information with our staff? Because many of our students are living with adverse childhood experiences right now. How can the adults in the building help? First, we need to be aware of the types of trauma that our students may be living with. Then, we need to arm ourselves with strategies to help our students build resilience and coping skills. If each staff member is “the one” for at least one student enduring trauma in the building, think about the impact we can make!
My ACE score is 4. Thankfully, I had two teachers who took me under their wing and helped to mitigate the long-term effects of my early trauma. I’m fully aware that my life could have gone in a different direction. I’m also acutely sensitive to the trauma that our students endure, as a result of my own trauma.
Last week, I finally had a chance to sit down and read Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. This is a timely and profoundly important memoir, that unfortunately too many of our students will see themselves in. But, that is exactly why it is a necessary book for our middle school and high school students.
Students who are living in a similar situation will see themselves in this graphic novel and will see how Jarrett was able to overcome his childhood trauma. Other students will read Hey Kiddo! and will become aware of situations that some of their friends may be going through, perhaps building some empathy for their classmates.
Think about the students in your classroom or building. Do you know them? I mean really know them? Do you know the trauma that some of them may endure in their homes? As we close out 2018 and begin to edge into 2019, I will think about how I can “be the one” for the students in my building. I hope you will do the same.
©2018 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.