Owner of A Kid's World for 20 yrs. I've spent half my life caring for children and educating myself in the field of early childhood and multicultural education. Recently, I have committed myself to a new mission... to improve the quality of childcare in the South Texas Region. This blog will serve as a calendar of my presentations. It will also provide educators with resources and networking opportunities. More importantly, this blog will serve as a voice to my most passionate education topics.
Monday, October 22, 2012
Classroom Discipline - Real Problem, Real Solutions
Friday, October 26, 2012
Texas Association for the Education of Young Children 48th Annual Conference
Galveston Convention Center
Faculty member helps children understand their emotions
People often think of grade school as the place for learning reading, writing and arithmetic, but is there room to teach children social skills and how to deal with their emotions? Ivelisse Torres-Fernandez, assistant professor of counseling and educational psychology, says yes.
Torres came to New Mexico State University in 2008 and along with teaching graduate courses and conducting her research, she dove right in to the land-grant mission of community outreach. Torres began her outreach efforts by adapting and implementing a program called “Strong Kids” at Hermosa Heights Elementary School in Las Cruces. Strong Kids is a PreK-12 curriculum that teaches social emotional learning and resiliency in children.
“Social emotional learning is a set of skills that enables our children to express themselves more openly and efficiently,” Torres said. “This includes understanding and building respect, relationships and resilience.”
When working with younger children, Torres is using a strategy that includes “Kimochis.” Kimochi (key-MO-chee) means “feeling” in Japanese and “Kimochis” are a brand of toys educators can use to teach children about their emotions. Each Kimochi is a stuffed animal with an assigned feeling and attributes. For example the character “Bug” is shy and afraid of trying new things, while “Huggtopus” is an octopus that doesn’t know its boundaries and always gets in others’ way. The use of these tools helps children relate to the lesson and keeps their attention.
“Traditional education is focused on academics and there’s a lot of pressure on children to pass standardized tests which often leaves them feeling anxious,” Torres said. “We try to help kids learn how to express themselves more effectively, put a name to their feelings and teach them how to be self-aware, identify and regulate behavior.”
Torres has not only been teaching the Strong Kids program at Hermosa Heights, but has helped translate the program into Spanish and has trained other educators in Dona Ana County and beyond. With the support of Michael Moorehead, dean of the College of Education, and John Schwartz, head of the Counseling and Educational Psychology Department, Torres was able to organize an institute that trained educators from Central America and the Caribbean in the Strong Kids program and social emotional learning.
Torres’ latest project is called “Cruzando Fronteras” or crossing borders. The project is a collaboration with the Deming Public School District and will provide mental health services to children impacted by violence on the U.S.-Mexico border. The project will begin at Columbus Elementary School, which has approximately 685 students, but only one school councilor.
“We will not only work on social emotional learning and resilience, but will also do trauma focused work,” Torres said. “There is a lot of direct trauma and vicarious, or second-hand, trauma that these children are experiencing.”
Whenever Torres is working in the community, she has graduate students, who she has trained in the curriculum, assisting her in implementing the programs.
“At the graduate level we have an excellent group of students who are very driven and motivated and want experience,” Torres said. “I try to provide them with an extra set of skills and opportunities to expand what they’ve already learned in class and translate theory into practice.”
Torres said she takes a “train the trainers” approach and enjoys teaching curriculum and techniques to others so they can teach the principles of social emotional learning to those in need.
“With the train the trainers approach you can impact more people at once, especially in a state like New Mexico where the population is spread throughout a large area,” Torres said. “I think this will make a big difference in the long run.”
The Palm Beach County School Board applauded the efforts of the school district to update its discipline policies Wednesday, while noting that much more needs to be done to change the culture of the school district to cut down on suspensions and other issues.
District officials unveiled a draft of a new code of student conduct policies to the board during a workshop and special meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Keith Oswald, assistant superintendent of curriculum and learning support, called the revised policies “his baby” and said he’s excited to see the district use research-based strategies and data to help schools deal with discipline and cut down on suspensions.
The changes to the discipline policies also stem in part from a 2009 settlement following a federal complaint that the district was too often suspending students who were emotionally or behaviorally disabled.
Part of that settlement required the district to develop and implement a “Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports” program, and to revise its discipline plan and code of student conduct to focus more on behavioral interventions.
At the end of the presentation, school board vice-chairwoman Debra Robinson applauded the district for its efforts to revamp its discipline policies to more proactively help students instead of automatically disciplining them.
She added with a smile, “I also want to thank the people who sued us to get us here.”
Other board members also heralded the plan, with school board member Jenny Prior Brown saying she thinks this will help “reshape the culture of the district in the direction we want to go.”
Still, concerns were raised about how well the proposed changes would be implemented by individual schools, teachers or principals.
The discussion about the district’s discipline practices come as the U.S. Department of Justice investigates a complaint about how the district handles suspensions of students who struggle to speak English.
On Monday, a trial attorney with the department’s Civil Rights Division visited the district and offered a number of suggestions that will be added to later versions of the policies, said Laura Pincus, a deputy counsel with the district. The district had sent its proposed policy to that attorney for her input, Pincus said.
The department’s recommendations included adding language ensuring that parents of students who get suspended are given information about the suspension in their native language.
“It’s about making sure we’re recognizing our obligations to our students who are English-language learners,” Pincus said.
Duval School Board agenda: Teacher discipline, including case involving child sexual charges
Posted: August 7, 2012 - 12:13am | Updated: August 7, 2012 - 7:39am
The Duval County School Board monthly meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the auditorium of the school district administration building, 1701 Prudential Drive. The meeting will be broadcast live on Comcast Channel 99 and online atwww.duvalschools.org. Among the items to be considered:
Item:Suspend without pay pending termination Christopher Bacca and Theodrick Morton.
What it means:Bacca, Windy Hill Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year, has been charged with several counts of sexual battery against a child. Morton, a teacher at A. Philip Randolph Academies of Technology, is accused of fondling and groping two female students at his school and faces two counts of battery against a minor.
Item:Suspend without pay five teachers.
What it means:Steven Gilchrist of Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology, 15 days, accused of inappropriate language; James Grant Jr. of Darnell Cookman Middle High School, 15 days, accused of giving FCAT answer sheets to students; Lena Lyles of Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, 30 days, accused of encouraging two students to help each other during FCAT testing; Wesley Tillman of Terry Parker High School, 30 days, accused of giving students End of Course exam answers; Sukaria Walls, Gregory Drive Elementary School, 15 days, accused of providing copy of word list for second grade state reading exam to the Sylvan Learning Center; Suzette Wynn-Wilcox of R.V. Daniels Elementary School, 15 days, accused of falsifying information on student’s Individual Education Plan.
Item:Ready for Tomorrow no-bid contract not exceeding $459,000.
What it means:The company will provide a range of support services to intervene schools. Connie Hall, a School Board candidate who has been endorsed by School Board Chairwoman Betty Burney, is president and CEO of the company.
Item:Two-year charter contract with School of Success Academy.
What it means:The middle school will be allowed to operate for two more years provided it complies with all state school improvement and accountability standards.
Item:Proposed 2013 academic targets.
What it means:Set target goals for student academic proficiency on mandated standardized tests including FCAT and End of Course exams.
Item:Educational Directions L.L.C. contract not exceeding $1.2 million.
What it means:The contract is for the company to provide sustained site-based management services to 12 lower-performing schools in the district.
an elementary school in Kemah, Texas, I witnessed firsthand what I found in my
research to be common practice used in this country to maintain school order
for the sake of academic success.During
my visit, I sat next to two young boys in the school’s office.The two unruly boys, referred for discipline,
were squirming in their seats when the school secretary unpleasantly said to
another office assistant, “I know what will “fix” them.”She then glares at one of the two boys and
says, “Do you want to go to the room?”The two boys immediately sat straight
up.Not fully realizing the situation, I
gathered my belonging and left.Upon a
second visit to the same school, I heard a boy’s cries and screams coming from
a back office.“No, no, don’t put me in
there!” he yelled.This time, I
questioned the unpleasant secretary and was told that children were placed in a
room as punishment for various indiscretions.Upon further investigation, I realized the room was not just any
room.The room was a closet size room
with carpeted walls, enclosed by a heavy door and a tiny window on the
door.I was told that some children sat
in the room for hours. Some children were made to eat lunch in the tiny room.Sometimes the door was shut and sometimes the
door was locked.The room was used for
punishment as well as a place for “distracted” children to complete their
work.I walked by the room and saw a
small desk, a lunch tray, and a small, brown skinned boy staring into the
The school implementing
such drastic discipline measures is part of a top notch, well sought out school
district in South Texas.It is a
beautiful, “blue ribbon” school that serves many of the districts, low income,
ESL students and it stands in an upper middle class neighborhood.I questioned the discipline procedure with
the nice, attractive, well dressed, well educated principle of the school and
her response was, “What are we supposed to do with children who misbehave or “refuse”
to do their work?This is all we
have.” I sat and stared at her for a moment, fully realizing that I did not have the answer to her question. The only thing I did know was that my gut told me there was something better for these children. With that in mind, my response was, "I don't know what you are supposed to do, but I will find out."
This incident started my five year education journey. I was blessed to have amazing professors at the University of Houston Clear Lake; they gave me the opportunity to devote nearly my entire graduate career to effective school discipline and social emotional learning. Today, I stand confident that I have the answers, and I will use every bit of energy that God gives me to educate parents, teachers and administrators for change.
I do not fault the nice lady because it was apparent to me that she did not have ill intentions. Nevertheless, her lack of creative solutions
to promote academic achievement and her reliance on outdated traditional methods of
discipline have been proven by an extensive amount of research to be ineffective and demoralizing
to children. They have also been proven costly to humanity and society. With this in mind, parents and educators have a moral and ethical obligation to work for change. We must make the decision to hold ourselves and each other to higher standards for the greater good of mankind.