January 4, 2021

Hey Teachers: Let’s Talk about ACEs.

While many are now aware of ACEs, I want to write this article for teachers who may have not yet heard of this acronym.

ACEs, or adverse childhood experiences, are negative events in an individual’s life that are associated with school dropout, psychiatric disorders, and early mortality.

They include having a parent who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, being exposed to violence in the home, and being abused.

Fifty percent of children are said to have experienced one, and roughly 10 percent have experienced three or more.

While one ACE puts a child at risk, a cumulative effect has been found showing that those who experience three or more are less likely to overcome their adversity, and are likely to die 20 years earlier than those who have experienced none.

While the ACEs questionnaire does not include all trauma experienced by children, it brings some awareness to the grave fact that childhood trauma is linked to an array of negative outcomes.

Why is this important for teachers to know?

It is important because you are often the first line of defense for helping to buffer the effects of these experiences.

Some of these children may act out in class.

Some may not.

Some may be A students.

Some may sit in the back of your class and never raise their hand.

You may never know who actually is struggling with these experiences, but it’s important to treat each student as if they are.

Whether we are aware of it or not, favoritism does exist in schools.

This is no judgment on any teacher, but research shows it’s quite common.

Subconsciously or not, boys have been found to be called on more than girls in math classes, and teachers are more likely to engage with particular students because of their individual positive characteristics over others.

A teacher may enjoy a particular personality. They may like a student because they are athletic or the child of a teacher. They may like a student because they are more talkative or are extremely kind.

There are many reasons why teachers may be drawn to some students over others, but it is important to be aware of these biases.

For some students who are struggling at home, school may provide a sanctuary in which they first feel safe.

These students may not stand out.

They may not say anything.

They may be engaging in drugs, make rude comments, or say nothing at all.

Often, we don’t know who these children are.

However, they still need support and they need it greatly.

I write this article because this topic is close to my heart.

We need to come together to begin to find ways to support the resilience of these children.

It starts at school, and with providing quality mentorship to all students.

It’s bidirectional.

We need to help students develop a growth mindset and curiosity about the world, and also encourage educators to become aware of their biases and improve their connections with students with who they may not engage as frequently.

Educators are the first line of defense.

They are doing a wonderful job, but there is still work to be done.

Let’s work to foster better quality mentorship with all students and see what happens.

Even if we reach one student, we are making an indent in ending intergenerational trauma.


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