Common Care Standards for Schools

June 17, 2014
Colored pencils next to a stack of books.

As another school year comes to an end, it’s hard to dispute that the biggest—and, arguably, the most controversial—topic in education recently has been the Common Core State Standards. A Google search turned up 26,300,000 results. 

I have no intention here to add to the Common Core debate. Rather, I propose that while we struggle to agree on the Common Core academic standards, we also recognize the importance of standards for Common Care. Shouldn’t schools also have standards for how staff provide for the best Care, Welfare, Safety, and Security℠ of their students?

A Common Concern
In every Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training class that I teach in a school district, there is a common concern that surfaces. Participants express their frustration with fellow staff members who do not consistently treat students with respect and dignity. Participants discuss how they're often the ones who have to “clean up the mess” after a colleague has provoked a student to the point of acting out, or has made a crisis situation worse by their behavior and attitude. Participants decry staff behaviors that are rude, disrespectful, angry, condescending, uncaring, sarcastic, even hostile and threatening. Behaviors that most would say are unprofessional. And participants who attend the Four-Day Instructor Certification Program in order to become Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® trainers in their schools or districts worry about these staff members expressing resistance to the program’s concepts and techniques.

Staff vs. Student Standards
Not long ago, I started using a simple activity in my class that relates to this issue. During the Team Intervention discussion, I ask participants to provide adjectives that describe the “ideal student.” The suggestions typically include words like cooperative, kind, respectful, motivated, caring, polite, engaged, thoughtful, and positive. As participants provide the adjectives, I write them on the chart under the title “The Ideal Student.” When the list is complete, I cross out the word “student” and replace it with the word “staff.” Then I ask, “If we ask the kids to describe the “ideal staff,” wouldn’t we hear the same adjectives?”

Shouldn’t staff be held accountable to standards of professional behavior? Shouldn’t we expect staff to treat all students the way they would want others to treat their own children? Isn’t it reasonable to expect staff to control their emotions and respond in ways that do not exacerbate the problem? Is a “code of conduct” for staff-to-student interaction unfair in an environment where student codes of conduct are routine? Shouldn’t staff model the behavior we expect of our students?

In Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training, we learn through the Integrated Experience discussion that our behaviors and attitudes impact students’ behaviors and attitudes. We learn how our nonverbal and paraverbal behavior can affect a crisis situation, either positively or negatively. We learn that we need to develop strategies for Rational Detachment to prevent our emotions and the effects of our Precipitating Factors from interfering with our professional judgment and our own behavior. We understand through trauma-informed care training that responding to behavior with sensitivity and compassion is more effective than responding harshly—and it’s more humane.

Erma Bombeck once wrote, “A child needs your love most when he deserves it least.” We know what works. We understand what’s needed. Isn’t it time we hold ourselves accountable to standards for Common Care?

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