|Helping students resolve conflicts, practice kindness|
|Written by Deborah Stone|
|Monday, 07 January 2013 13:09|
Most Northshore schools have a building-wide discipline plan in place, however many teachers often use a variety of strategies and terms in designing their individual classroom management systems.
That’s how it’s been, for example, at Bear Creek Elementary, until recently. Principal Gary Keeler explains that in staff discussions, his teachers expressed a desire to create a common language and approach for helping students to process problems and for establishing positive learning communities.
The decision was made to use UCLA Cool Tools Safe School System, an approach that Keeler notes is aimed at developing a consistent and positive method for developing a powerful learning community.
He adds, “It provides a school-wide behavior management approach that helps students to develop effective skills and positive habits for addressing common school problems.”
Keeler emphasizes that the program is not curriculum, but rather a component of the school’s behavior management/discipline program.
UCLA Cool Tools Safe School System, which originated at the UCLA Lab School (an elementary school on the UCLA campus and connected to the School of Education at the university), is used in over 20 elementary buildings in the L.A. area, as well as in Japan, and has been in effect at UCLA Lab School for over 14 years.
Pam Harper, a longtime physical therapist for Northshore School District, was trained in the program and began implementing it on a limited basis in the game rooms at both Hollywood Hill and Bear Creek.
“This is the only program that I have seen of its kind that works,” comments Harper. “It provides students with integrity-building and conflict resolution ideas, as well as allows a student to sort out and repair their mistakes.”
Harper continues to explain that the program provides each teacher with a notebook of organized, student-friendly ways to discuss various concepts.
They are also given a “Tool Kit” full of different tools to help students understand complex ideas such as self-reliance, consideration, kindness, integrity, empathy/fairness, self-respect, patience, responsibility, forgiveness, determination and perseverance in a developmentally appropriate way.
The program, according to Harper, is based on studies from Dr. Dan Olweus, a research psychologist from Norway.
She says, “He has developed and has been involved in his anti-bullying systems for over 40 years.
“His research includes two important concepts. The first involves the need to establish positive relations with students. The second notes that the system has to be school-wide with a common language.”
Harper stresses that the need for classroom strategies to help students learn and practice kindness, repair their mistakes and learn how to resolve conflicts is necessary to reduce the ever-growing problem of bullying.
“Bullying has increased significantly,” she comments. “We’ve been using a bandaid approach to dealing with this issue and everyone is doing something different. The staff at every school needs to be cohesive in its approach. With this program, they are able to use concrete tools to get across abstract concepts.”
At Bear Creek, teachers present one lesson each month and then practice the concept throughout the month.
Teachers and staff lead by example and model the concepts of the system within themselves, as well as with their students.
“Each class is involved in the school-wide focus activity and discussion for that month,” says Keeler, “but activities can be used to address problems that arise at any time. If something comes up, they seize the moment.”
Bear Creek teachers have provided Keeler with feedback about the program thus far. They note that it has helped build confidence and strengthen friendships; allowed students to understand the power of put-ups and how difficult it is to recover relationships that are damaged by put-downs; ignited students’ interest in collaboration and connecting with others in the classroom and across the school; and helped build a classroom community based on trust, common language, proactive conversations, fun and problem solving.
Kara Morrison, who teaches full-day kindergarten at the school, comments that she really enjoys the program, adding, “The lessons are very different every time, very hands-on and extremely applicable. These are life skills that the kids will be able to use right away.”
As to their efficacy, Morrison says, “I always wonder if the message gets through – after all, that is the point, yet it can be so hard to measure. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when the other day another teacher told me that one of my students stopped her to tell her of a put-up he received. We also revisited the lesson recently and I was pleasantly surprised with the retention.”
At Bear Creek, the school-wide “Families” program is also planning to utilize UCLA Cool Tools Safe School System activities within its meetings.
“We want parents to get involved,” comments Keeler, “so they can become familiar with the terminology and the concepts. Once they get on board, they will be able to reiterate them at home and put them to use with their kids.”
Harper hopes that additional schools will adopt the program. “Right now, we’re seeing how it all goes at Bear Creek and Hollywood Hill, but my hope is that eventually all of the schools will have it.”