In 2018, OCU’s Teacher Education Department is participating in classroom management skills training that addresses student development deficits. Focusing on issues that impact learning, such as effects of divorce, poverty, and substance abuse, requires equipping teachers with proven intervention skills.
To enable Teacher Education majors to succeed in this challenge, OCU is hosting a training workshop on trauma-informed care led by Pickaway County Board of Disabilities on June 4th and 5th. Mandated by the State of Ohio, this practicum is offered for any teacher in Ohio at no cost.
Teachers from Pickaway, Ross, Fayette, and Franklin counties will participate. “We are providing our facility for this essential training as a service to those who serve us,” explains Dr. Valerie Jones, chair of OCU’s Teacher Education Department. OCU students attending the workshop will receive credit.
In 2017, Teacher Education faculty and students attended a Propel Ohio Conference on trauma-informed care best practices. They discovered that OCU’s curriculum addresses much on this subject. “We are pleased to be training on trauma-informed care already,” explains Dr. Valerie Jones. “Our teaching methods and classroom management, following Piaget and Dewey, includes corrective ‘discipline through love’. This approach is integral to the Christian worldview that imbues every discipline here.”
Teachers learn to handle disruptive behavior by fostering a caring parent/child relationship where the teacher takes misbehaving students aside and reasons with them so that they understand the corrective action is motivated from caring to help them behave to their best interests in becoming successful in learning and socialization. Students are encouraged to learn from recognition of and correction for wrong behavior via reasoning that builds understanding, aligned with the Piaget learning model. “Today, students need a strong sense of calling to meet the challenges of disruptive behaviors presented in their classrooms,” emphasizes Jones.
Pickaway Board of Disabilities trainers Bryston McKnight and Mary Nelle Faye are providing skills training that includes methods presentation, sharing ideas, and discussion of working out plans for using the featured techniques in the classroom.
Disruptive students are troubled by environmental issues that interfere with stable conditions that support learning, such as living in homes broken by divorce, partying, and absent or negligent parents who leave their children to stay up late taking care of younger siblings. “Such students can’t get their homework done due to severe disruptions that undermine normal learning,” explains Jones. “In the classroom the skilled teacher talks to these children and demonstrates caring. This encourages the children to trust the teacher. The teacher becomes a mentor when no one at home is. The skilled teacher is a surrogate parent out of necessity and compassion.”
The trauma-informed care workshop addresses typical cases, plans, and tools for handling disruptive behaviors to enable effective teaching. Participants learn steps and techniques that help traumatized children to abandon disruptive behavior. Teachers need these skills so they can teach to national standards.
Specifics cover handling lack of impulse control in children born of opiate-addicted parents. Techniques apply to when trauma issues arise. The goal is to keep such children in class without disrupting others. Teacher preparation for these situations enable achieving desired learning productivity. “Teachers need to know how this works. The opioid crisis is everywhere,” Jones explains. “Teachers need to organize activities to achieve their goals. Of thirty students, six may have brain damage. Such children will be entering school when OCU teaching majors begin their careers.”
“More and more teaching is a mission-field occupation. Practitioners must have the skills of teachers, nurses, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and parents,” Jones continues. “We may be the only stable thing in the lives of some students. They need someone who cares, shows love to them. These children have limits in their ability to cope. They do not have ability to control themselves.”
Class materials are suited to learning levels among students. Curriculum content is tuned to typical psycho-social development. Common Core sets national standards for each grade but does not take into account individual education plans (IEPs). The Core approach overlooks missed class/learning time in the past year due to family instabilities. “We aim to provide educationally appropriate education,” says Jones. “We find out where students are in their learning and take them where they need to be through scaffolding and support, developmentally appropriate education. Scaffolding is differentiating learning assignments to accommodate lower, middle, and higher performing students in the same class. It may be verbal encouragement or tutoring a middle group, while advanced students learn to use Google Chromebooks. All are in same age group, but their needs differ. Multiple approaches are needed to shepherd the entire class along in meeting the Common Core standard.”
What responsibility have parents for helping their children learn? “We teachers want parents to support learning at home. We apply a community focus in secondary education. Communities today are not as in the 1950s where traditional families predominated. Today, more parents are absent. Some are working poor with multiple jobs. Some are simply neglectful. Instances are reported of parents abandoning children with distant relatives. These situations undermine children learning. We always need to be very mindful of every child’s background. Teachers must understand students’ situations and backgrounds. It’s not optional.”
Teachers can connect with parents in annual conferences, if parents attend. If students have been truant, parents must attend. Conferences are held at the beginning of the year and at school open houses. One-on-one IEP reviews are at the beginning of the year. When parents do not participate the teacher, intervention specialist, and school psychologist must make decisions for those students. Students are tested and referred to specialists based on their IEPs. Some parents ask for referrals and testing if children’s learning issues are apparent. IQ testing and other tests are used to help identify issues. Today one in five students have dyslexia.
The trauma-informed care initiative addresses these challenges with hope. Teachers can and do change children’s lives. They can and do break cycles of disruption. They can achieve very positive long-term outcomes, in spite of frustrating situations that work against best efforts. Well-equipped, skilled teachers truly can be frontline ‘super stars’ lifting up the upcoming generations.
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