1. Lead by example—model respect and caring in your actions.
“Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work—because even children know that actions speak louder than words. When surveyed
about issues like aggression and bullying, kids revealed that they’re actually very inclined to choose prosocial behaviors—when the adults in their life are modeling them. When kids don’t know what to do, they don’t do anything. That’s why so many have expressed that they’d like the help of adults in learning new ways to exhibit kindness and caring.
Knowing that behavior impacts behavior, the way we interact with one another as adults certainly informs not only how we interact with children, but what they learn from observing us.
2. Seek to be restorative, and not punitive, in handling challenging or disruptive behaviors.
“If an administrator walked into my classroom, it was quiet and orderly—but wholly devoid of genuine community,” said restorative practices coordinator Drew deLutio of taking a punitive approach to student management. “In education, I think there’s been a tendency to believe that restorative practices are inaccessible to most teachers and administrators. Some might think it’s a philosophy and way of being reserved only for those select few who naturally embody the work. My experience screams otherwise. We all deserve to live and work in healthy, supportive communities. Restorative practices simply provide us with the tools to begin intentionally building those kinds of relationships with everyone. If we make those kinds of relationships our goal, healthy community is our reward.”
A restorative approach
gives students the opportunity to develop the behaviors that improve their likelihood of success by keeping them engaged constructively in the classroom community.
3. Support inclusion by strategically integrating classrooms and activities wherever possible.
With mindful collaboration, you can create a more inclusive environment for students. Educator Laura Seckington emphasizes that it’s not just enough to coordinate efforts with fellow staff—taking time to teach students about the integration process
paves the way for better peer relationships between children regardless of ability.
After planning and implementing a coordinated approach with staff across curriculum, Seckington says the next strategic step is orienting students to the concepts of integration at the beginning of the year. “We begin to foster relationships through a buddy system where students are paired up during each class. Troubleshooting different scenarios with their ‘buddy’ is a terrific way to get students involved and accountable in the learning of both partners. Teach students how to greet their buddy, what to do when they think they are upset, or how to use different materials in the classroom to help them.”
4. Try to collaborate with all the key adults in a child’s life to establish the consistency that can help children master self-regulation.
Educator Leah Kuypers has pointed out
that emotional development is a critical component of cognitive development, yet emotional challenges aren’t always addressed with the same thoughtfulness that is devoted to other developmental delays. “All too often, our approach for a child with lagging skills in self-regulation is a more disciplinary model—where we would never take that approach with a kid who has a motor impairment or a reading delay.”
“Working in collaboration,” Leah explains, “It’s profound for the student to be able to move between contexts and environments and amongst different people supporting them, and hear the same language, that the visuals are there, that the environment is embracing them and setting them up for success as they travel between the cafeteria and the classroom and their specialist and their resource rooms.”
5. As new generations experience new challenges, take a trauma-sensitive approach that meets children where they are so that they can get where they need to go.
The difficult reality is that not every child’s home is a haven. From hunger and poverty, to processing transgenerational trauma, to coping with issues of abuse, not every child enters the classroom equipped to make the most of their instruction time. This is where a trauma-sensitive perspective in daily activities can help staff meet students where they’re at—so that they can successfully get where they need to go.
“What we have learned through our journey,” write
experienced educators Jennifer Taylor and Doug Johnson, “is that hope has to be supported by specific and deliberate action. In order to have hope, we must also have a plan.” Intentional, person-centered choices in handling challenging behaviors can help students develop improved coping skills and get the most out of their direct instruction time.
6. Understand that we all have a part to play in sustaining a culture of caring and safety in schools.
It’s simply not enough to expect already overextended educational staff
to absorb the burden of creating a safe and caring school climate. All adults can play a significant role in cultivating a society in which children can grow and thrive.
Whether it’s by advocating for the training that empowers staff and improves the quality of direct instruction time, adopting prosocial behaviors that model and promote kindness and caring, or collaborating with key stakeholders to develop consistency in a child’s environment, we can each do something constructive and positive to pave a pathway for student success in this new school year.