Elementaries work to "Foster Resilient Learners"

Elementaries work to "Foster Resilient Learners"
Posted on 06/17/2019
Teachers and staff members at Lake Wilderness Elementary, Shadow Lake Elementary and Rock Creek Elementary have put an added focus on building stronger relationships with students this year, using concepts from the books “Fostering Resilient Learners” (FRL) and “Relationship, Responsibility and Regulation.”

Staff at all three schools spent time at the beginning of the year with associates from the FRL team, and Lake Wilderness recently invited author Kristin Souers to the school, where she spent the day working with staff members and spoke at an evening meeting for parents.

“We’ve had a schoolwide focus on Fostering Resilient Learners this year,” Principal Audrey Meyers said. “We’re really thinking about how we can meet all kids’ needs.”

Sharing a bit about her background with LW parents, Souers said she lived in Washington state before moving to California and learning about gang culture. She wanted to become a police officer, but ended up going back to school to earn a degree in counseling. After working in outpatient care, she worked with Principal Pete Hall to help students at his school. Hall later encouraged her to write “Fostering Resilient Learners,” and contributed to both that project and a second book called “Relationship, Responsibility and Regulation.”

The books talk a lot about how the brain works, how trauma impacts the brain and ways that caring adults can help kids. One cool aspect of all the strategies is that they’re methods that can help all kids, whether they have had trauma in their lives or not, said Shadow Lake Dean of Students Scott Mitchell.

At the Lake Wilderness parent night, Souers said much can be accomplished through kindness. It’s a concept that fits well with the LWES motto, “Choose kind.”

“We’re bringing human back into education, and remembering: Let’s just be nice to each other and to kids,” Souers said at the LW parent night. “A lot of kids are coming through our doors doing the best they can.”

As educators, parents and as a society, she said, we need to ask, “How do we find the awesome in everyone? ... Every kid needs to be seen with potential; be seen as awesome.”

Students and staff members are at their best when their brains are ready for the day, she said, and shared 10 things our brains need to be “learning ready:” sleep, exercise, healthy eating, drinking water, breathing, being challenged, limiting screens, teamwork, laughter and gratitude.

When brains (kids’ or adults’) aren’t ready to learn, it’s easy for them to melt down. Teachers and staff at Lake Wilderness have added calm-down stations to classrooms and are working to use common language and practices.

Several parents who attended the evening talk said they liked the idea of seeing the awesome in every kid; and expressed interest in seeing the concepts and practices adopted districtwide.

At Shadow Lake, staff members have implemented a few of the FRL ideas.

“The big thing we talk about is creating caring communities,” Mitchell said. “These are strategies that benefit all kids.”

Partway through the school year, the school’s PBIS team helped implement additional ideas. One of those was to create student reflection books for each staff member. The books have the photo and name of each child the staff member works with, and space for them to add notes about what they know about that child. The goal is to help teachers and staff members focus on their relationships with the students. For example, if they have paragraphs about most students, but only a few words about another, they may need to spend some time building relationship with that student.

Next, the PBIS team created mini problem-solving teams in grade levels, and staff members could brainstorm with their team to come up with additional strategies to help specific students who are struggling.

Last, Mitchell and Principal Mike Hanson asked teachers to spend time on activities that help build relationships, such as class meetings, sharing at the end of the day or restorative circles (when students sit in a circle and problem solve together).

“It’s really about giving teachers toolboxes and empowering them to spend time on relationship-building,” Mitchell said.

As a result of this work, PBIS efforts and other elements, Shadow Lake has seen a 42 percent decrease in office referrals, as well as a significant decrease in student disrespect, Mitchell and Hanson said.

Both Lake Wilderness Elementary and Shadow Lake Elementary receive some federal Title 1 funding, which Meyers and Hanson used to help fund these efforts.

Rock Creek Elementary also did a staff training with an FRL associate, as well as focused follow-up trainings throughout the year, Dean of Students John Schuster said.

“At Rock Creek, we made it a focus this year to learn and understand our children, many of whom come to school every day with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). By focusing on building relationships with all of our students, we have been able to better determine what interventions and supports each child needs,” Schuster said. “Our work has produced positive results including fewer office discipline referrals, to more targeted interventions for individual students.”

For more information about the books and ideas, click here: www.fosteringresilientlearners.org
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