(Prepared by Toni Tollerud, Ph.D. and Lee Shumow, Ph.D.
NIU College of Education, Center for Child Welfare and Education)
In spite of the traumatic event on our campus, remember that most students will recover and will not have lasting learning problems. It is important, however, for those who design learning environments to understand that resilience is not a personality trait. It needs to be fostered and promoted. At the following website you will find resources and recommendations that foster resilience in your students. http://apahelpcenter.org/featuredtopics/feature.php?id=6&ch=4 Remember that many students, staff, and faculty will ultimately respond with heightened commitment to their professional, educational, and life goals. Here are some tips you might want to consider as you move forward in your classes and work with student learners.
All people respond to trauma differently. For many, a single exposure to trauma may cause them to react physically, psychologically, emotionally and socially. Behaviorally, these students may become jumpy, have intrusive thoughts, experience nightmares and disturbed sleep patterns, appear moody, sad or angry, or withdraw socially. These responses interfere with concentration, memory, and learning.
A student’s school performance may be affected by the following:
The nervous system responds to extreme (traumatic) circumstances by chemically suppressing certain parts of the brain and over-stimulating others. As long as the threat is present or perceived as present, that response is adaptive because it facilitates self protection. As people return to their “normal” lives some common residual responses from the traumatic experience can temporarily undermine learning and productivity in many, and longer in a few. Therefore some of your students may be experiencing some of the following:
Some traumatic experiences occur once in a lifetime, but others are chronic. For some students, the trauma they have experienced on campus may trigger strong memories of previous trauma they have endured. This may also have a strong impact on students with existing medical or mental health conditions or on students who are experiencing other major stressors in their lives. These students may have additional difficulties in the classroom.
Be aware that you were also affected by what has happened on campus. Use good self-care, get your own rest so you are ready to work effectively with your students. Contact the Employee Assistance Office for additional assistance, resources, or counseling.
Last Updated: 08/20/2008