Methods: A mixed method design, including focus groups and survey administration was utilized with teachers and staff (N=38) employed at two Midwest public charter high schools. The teachers and staff at the intervention school (N=27) received a modified version of the curriculum entitled, The Heart of Teaching and Learning: Compassion, Resiliency, and Academic Success in two half day trainings sessions with monthly boosters between August and May. Six total focus groups were conducted over the 14-15 academic year, three before the start of the school year (2 at the intervention school and 1 at the control school), and three at the conclusion of the school year. The surveys, administered during the same time periods, were designed to measure professional quality of life (including risk for burnout and exposure to secondary trauma and teacher ability to respond to trauma behaviors. The vast majorities of students enrolled at both schools have a history of trauma exposure and have failed in traditional public school settings. Teachers and school personnel are majority white females 50% have 1-4 years of experience teaching and 44% with 5 or more years’ experience.
Results: Analysis of focus groups identified five themes; burnout, compassion fatigue, secondary trauma, need for self-care, and experience using self-care. Two themes were endorsed by the majority of participants; ‘burnout’ and ‘experience using self-care’ both with an (N=24). Teachers who received the intervention reported statistically significantly higher rates in their ability to respond to student externalizing and shutting down behaviors. The intervention school also experienced lower levels of teacher attrition than the control school.
Conclusion and Implications: The results support the use of trauma-informed trainings to address teacher attrition, teacher response to student behavior, recognizing the impact of secondary trauma, and the importance of self-care both inside and outside of the school environment.