The trauma that underlies student behavior and educators’ responses

There is a new wave in education, where teachers, counselors, and school support staff understand the need to help address students’ emotional needs. 

A child sits on the grass in front of a large fence covered in Black Lives Matter protest signs, another child plays on a small toy slide on the sidewalk in front of the fence.

But as they take care of their students, educators must also consider how they are impacted by traumatic events and care for themselves. That was the message Penn GSE clinical psychologists Marsha Richardson delivered during her EDTECH Week Masterclass. 

Richardson, who teaches in Penn GSE’s school counseling programs, originally designed her Masterclass to think through ways to support students and educators during the COVID-19 pandemic. But she spoke as protestors marched in cities across the country to decry systemic racism and police brutality.

Noting that we are experiencing two public health crises, Richardson spoke about the need to acknowledge the lack of safety, connection, and stress that everyone is experiencing.

Richardson described the situation after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police as one of collective disturbance in which all parties involved have been hurt by what is happening around them. “This disturbance usually occurs when people have negative thoughts and feelings towards those in power,” she says.

“Here ... we have a Black man whose death was videotaped,” Richardson says. “His death was at the hands of ... a person who was supposed to protect and serve. So the collective disturbance is ... the tip of the iceberg, from a historical perspective, that has manifested into what we’re seeing now.”

“So the collective disturbance ... is a systemic and organizational dynamic ... where everyone is reacting and responding to the stressors to the trauma in their own unique ways,” she says.

Read more at Penn GSE.