News and information about education, research, and support for SESPs; adoptive, foster, and kinship caregivers; and child welfare and education professionals helping children with trauma and other special needs get the most from their education.
Running Circles Around School Punishment
By Mary-Beth Landy RTSC Training and Support Specialist
Restorative Practices have grown from the ideas of Restorative Justice (RJ), which is practiced in many cultures around the globe. This is in contrast to our current criminal justice system and school discipline systems that are typically driven by shame and punishment. Restorative Justice incorporates the values of inclusion, responsibility, reparation, healing, and reintegration into an approach for dealing with conflict and harm. Why are we talking about Restorative Practices when looking at school discipline? Because school discipline practices only work for the students that don’t need them. Continue Reading
Things to Consider
Trauma, schooling instability, poverty: Any one of these challenges can make it harder for gifted children to be found and to show their strengths, and children in the foster care system often have all of those disadvantages and then some. George Garcia, a student from Los Angeles, cycled through 10 home placements in high school, but was able to stay in the same community school. Garcia said being surrounded with “academically ambitious” classmates and teacher in college-prep courses “challenged me to invest a lot of my time in something I could control.”
But not every student can remain in the same school placement long enough to be identified as gifted. The Every Student Succeeds Act should assist with this problem. It requires school districts to understand a lot more about both academically advanced students and those in foster care than they have in the past.
There has been a lot of news lately regarding the Parkland shooting, and rightfully so. These students and faculty have suffered a severe traumatic event. How the aftermath is handled is of utmost importance, as with any trauma. Mindfulness can be the foundation for helping students effected start to process these events. Mindfulness is helpful with developing Social/Emotional Learning. And as we know through research, having Social/Emotionally ready kids is the cornerstone of everything that comes after it, like learning. It helps them to be more emotionally resilient and learning ready.
How often in schools, do you find a student seeking out the help of peers and faculty in finding appropriate ways to resolve conflicts? How often do you hear about a student talking about the way they handled a situation, finding better ways to deal with their behaviors, rather than being disciplined for them? This video takes a look at one high school approach to Restorative Circles, as a means to guide the students to reflect on their behavior, a practice appropriate approaches to school situations.
It is rare to see a teenager without a cell phone these days. In fact, today’s teens have never known a time without social media. Social media is such a driving force for where they get their news (real or fake), their fashion style, as well as their sense of self. With social media, teens can orchestrate their lives in a way that they wish to be viewed to the outside world. Often this is not a realistic view of what’s happening with the student’s emotional state. There are even apps, like FaceTune, that change or “improve” your image into a “better you”, so that your picture no longer looks like the real you. The problem develop when people are only showing the best and most enviable moments while concealing the efforts, struggles, and the merely ordinary aspects of day-to-day life. There’s now evidence that those images are causing distress for many kids. For teens the combined weight of vulnerability, the need for validation, and the desire to compare themselves with peers, forms what can be described as the “perfect Storm of self-doubt!”
The statistics tell us that 85% of children in the custody of the Department of Children and Families, are removed from their families for neglect. One form of neglect is emotional neglect. It eats at the core of a child’s self-esteem and belief system. The messages of “no one wants to see your feelings,” “your feeling are shameful”, and “there is something wrong with you” are very painful messages to grow up with. They lead to a lack of belief in yourself, the thought that you are a burden, as well as a sense that all of your struggles in your life are you fault, because something deep down is wrong with you. Let’s take a closer look at how to counter these painful beliefs.
Most people have a tendency to equate discipline and punishment as the same thing, but they are not. Discipline is the proactive skills development to avoid an inappropriate behavior, where punishment is the reaction to a problem. The many skills of discipline are very beneficial to the development of a person. Discipline means seeing the conflict as an opportunity to problem solve. It provides guidance, focuses on prevention, enhances communication, models respect, and embraces natural consequences, while it teachers fairness, responsibility, and life skills.
Many youth who have had their educational experience in a juvenile justice facility have said that it is “glorified babysitting.” Incarcerated youth are more likely to need special education services, have gaps in their schooling, and require extra academic supports than typical peers. But finding teachers to provide services to these youth can be a great challenge, due to the differences in students ages and proficiency levels, while trying to focus on students’ academic, social-emotional, and behavioral needs. As Kate Burdick of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia says, “Having qualified teachers is a huge part of improving that, but also recognizing that teachers need to be certified and trained not just on their content areas but also on the unique needs of youths who are in a juvenile justice setting is critical.” Massachusetts has made improving teaching inside juvenile a priority since 2003. This article takes a deeper look at how to make this success possible.
A recent Gallup poll shows that nearly one third of all newly recruited teachers report burn out in their first 3-5 years of teaching, and nearly 70% of K-12 teacher do not feel engaged in the jobs! Besides the effects on teachers personally, there are effects on the classroom environment, and everyone in that environment contributes to the success of that educational system. A recent study by Dr. Patricia Jennings, suggest that teachers’ self-care practices significantly impact their ability to create and maintain effective and supportive classrooms. Studies have proven that yoga and mindfulness practices for school teachers can improved self-awareness of thoughts, emotions, causes for behaviors, conflict resolution ability, while reducing reactivity, stress, and burnout.
Working with students with trauma can be a rewarding experience, but it can also lead to vicarious trauma or secondary trauma. Whether you are a teacher, a SESP, or a parent, vicarious trauma is real and can affect anyone working with children of trauma. Some of the symptoms of this form of trauma are sleep difficulties, irritation, intrusive thoughts of victims, as well as diminished emotions, just to name a few. So how can someone deal with vicarious trauma? Support, Support, Support! Be it, give it, get it!
Useful Tools and Resources
Parenting can be challenging, but when you are parenting a child with difficult behaviors, it can be beyond frustrating. You may have several other children who you have had a successful experience with. But now you are perplexed as to why your parenting style is not working with this child. We all want to parent are children the same, however, not every child may respond to the same ideas, strategies, and experiences. Christine Hammond, LCMHC, gives some practical tips for working with your child with challenging behaviors.
How often as parents or teachers do we find ourselves asking “what was that all about?”, when it comes to children’s behavior? This is especially true when dealing with children of trauma. Remember, behavior is a form of communication. So what are they trying to communicate. It is very important to deal with the root cause of the behavior instead of punishing the child. Otherwise we will be left wondering why this child is “always getting in to trouble” or “never learns!” A little time spent on this kind of reflection can help us develop more compassion and support children who are struggling to tell us just how overwhelming it can be in their world.
Mark Twain described anxiety brilliantly when he wrote, “I’m an old man now. I’ve lived a long and difficult life filled with so many misfortunes, most of which never happened.” Some degree of fear and anxiety is inevitable in life. But for some people, these emotions can become truly debilitating, keeping them trapped in cycles that can lead to depression and even chronic pain. So how can we help children better manage fear and anxiety when they come up? One of the ways to do this is to use mindfulness to stay present in the moment, as the moment is usually pretty safe. For many children of trauma things feel unsafe when they have been triggered, and are living in a past moment. By retraining our brains to stay in the present moment, we can recognize that we in fact are safe. In this article Dr. Ron Siegel, PsyD., teaches us a simple yet effective practice to help us stay in the present moment.