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Preparing Health and Physical Education Teachers to Become Trauma Invested

Jennifer L. Walton-Fisette and Douglas Ellison

joperd cover November December 2020

The purpose of this Feature Series is to prepare health and physical education teachers, both at the P–12 and higher education levels, on how to become knowledgeable about trauma, toxic stress, and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) by engaging in trauma-invested practices. The focus on trauma-invested practices is exceedingly important at this time when we are navigating a pandemic and a national focus on racial injustice, both of which have placed mental health issues and social-emotional learning at the forefront of education discussions. Currently, licensed teachers are not prepared to educate, assist and support students who are dealing with trauma, which significantly influences their ability to learn. Our hope through this Feature Series is to provide knowledge, strategies and pedagogical practices to health and physical education teachers at both the P–12 and higher education levels.

Across the articles in this Feature Series, the content and trauma-informed practices provided center on the majority of gymnasium and classroom settings when dealing with trauma. That is, the focus is on preventative measures that teachers can engage in to minimize potential triggers and enhance ways on how to de-escalate a student who is under toxic stress. Extreme or egregious circumstances when a student may become combative, is unable to self-regulate, or escalates to a level that may cause harm to self or others are not included in this Feature Series. We understand that teachers need guidance and direction on how to navigate these situations as well, which we hope will be a forthcoming follow-up to these articles. Furthermore, looking at both trauma and social-emotional learning by addressing socially unjust practices that may enhance these issues is included.

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