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MaineSub MaineSub is offline
 
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MaineSub
 
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A different sort of vigilance
Old 02-20-2018, 09:40 AM
 
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Last week I found myself dealing with a third grader experiencing an unexplained anxiety attack... it had a "happy" ending, but it also set me to wondering.

One conclusion I reached was that in our search for ways to protect our children, we not only have to guard against unlocked doors, we have to protect our children (and ourselves) from the emotional damage that often accompanies these tragedies and trauma--even when they are thousands of miles away. It is perhaps, a different sort of vigilance, but is just as important--perhaps more so.

I think it's especially important to watch for behavior changes in kids following things like this. We (and for that matter they) may not know what they are thinking and feeling. Imagine the child whose every waking moment at home is spent with the television blaring the news... how much courage does it take to board the bus the next day?

There are some great resources available on sites like Edutopia, the APA (American Psychology Association), etc. I would challenge everyone on the forum to take a few minutes to think about this and perhaps do a little research. We can and must make our children feel safe--not only physically, but also emotionally. The fear of what might happen can be even greater than the reality of what did happen.

As subs, I don't think it's our place to initiate conversations, but we need to be ready to listen (and observe). We can model healthy perspectives and calmness. In some situations, it may be wise to involve additional staff. (In the case of the anxiety attack this included the school nurse and regular teacher.) I think it's important that we not allow our own security concerns to telegraph fear to our students.

I was once seen by the kids talking to a police officer at a school function... several of the kids approached me concerned about what was wrong. They didn't need to know there actually was a situation so I "lied" to them, explaining that it was not at all unusual for the police to stop by at public events held at a school and we should be happy to see them. Safe schools are about emotional security as well as physical.

Are there other ideas for how we can remain vigilant to our student's concern and help them feel safe?


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Old 02-20-2018, 02:01 PM
 
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Just this week, I was talking with another teacher about how our kids have such a multitude of issues these days. Very sad. For many of our students, we’re the only stable adults in their lives, and school is the only safe haven they have.

You’re right on target about maintaining an air of calm around the students, no matter what we may be thinking/feeling at the time. We have to be very observant of body language as well as the behavioral changes you mentioned. Sometimes the signals can be very subtle.

I think projecting an aura of caring and level-headedness goes a long way in helping students feel safe and secure. Kids are very good readers of non-verbal communication.
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Thanks, Mooba1...
Old 02-22-2018, 03:52 AM
 
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Quote:
I think projecting an aura of caring and level-headedness goes a long way in helping students feel safe and secure.
And I would extend that to "classroom management." The longer I'm at this, the more convinced I become that a lot of what we think are behavioral issues are actually learning issues. Kids simply haven't learned the appropriate behaviors--or haven't figured out the importance of the appropriate behavior. Just one example, kids don't know how to get our attention so they act out. Or perhaps they have learned that's the best way to get our attention. They are busy coping with a confusing world and managing themselves, that's not an easy task. A lot of adults have trouble with it.

I find myself often saying things like, "I understand you're excited but we need to..." (settle down, get focused, etc.) I'm less interested in controlling kids than I am in understanding them. As you rightly point out, kids today are often dealing with a multitude of issues. Our difficult task is to help them learn how to do that. Another thing I often find myself saying is, "Are you okay?"

Without getting too conceptual, there is a "law of psychological reciprocity" -- a social norm that says people tend to respond to actions with similar actions. (Kindness begets kindness.) When we project "caring and level-headedness" (and I would add respect for these smaller humans) we will get it back.
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As if to make the point...
Old 02-26-2018, 02:57 PM
 
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We had a bomb threat and evacuation today. All is well... as long as you don’t consider the emotional trauma... kids crying, shaking, etc. I lost count of the number of times I said, “You are safe...” I violated school policy and gave some hugs and held some hands. These are difficult times... I confess that after the last child left, i found myself thinking “I can’t do this anymore.” I am not afraid, but it is totally draining...

One parent posted on social media that she is proud of and thankful for the people at school she entrusts her kids to. I am ready to go back now.
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A teaching moment on courage?
Old 02-26-2018, 04:54 PM
 
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So I was teaching fourth graders about the history of California. The particular segment that the teacher left was about the fight for independence of Mexico from Spain, and how it was that the speech of a Catholic priest led to a struggle that took 11 years before independence was achieved. A young scholar asked if it wasn't a sin for the priest to instigate an uprising against the government. I stated that the Bible does say we ought to submit to the government. I continued with the history lesson and the same student came back to her question differently: Why did the priest sin?

Based on the lesson we were reading, I mentioned that he was taking a stand on behalf of people who were being treated unfairly by both the government and the church. The three people groups were the White Spaniard descendants who had been born in Mexico rather than Spain, the ethnically mixed descendants of White and indigenous people, and the unmixed indigenous people.

This led to a discussion of standing up for other people as a good principle, which led to a discussion of the school massacre in Florida. A student said his mom told him that he should preserve himself first, and that that sometimes means running or hiding. I told him that adults are supposed to help kids and not the other way around, so as a kid, it was not his job to help me. So in a situation such as the school shooting, I told him that as the adult in a class, I would have made a run at the shooter even if it meant the likelihood of losing my life because if I could stop him by incapacitating him or killing him, it could mean that (in our class, for example), only 1 person would die instead of 26. I explained that if his intention was to kill everybody anyway, that meant that I would also die anyway and that I might as well die trying to prevent more deaths than simply taking it lying down. I stated that it's better to die a hero than to live a coward.

I think their take-away was that a courageous person would at least try to do something for other people even if there were only a slim chance of stopping the killer; that doing nothing would ensure NO chance of stopping the killer.

I would go so far as to teach kids (if I were the regular teacher) that in a crazy situation like the one in Florida, if a shooter were to enter the room, that the best way to survive would not be to run away, but (counter-intuitively) to run toward the shooter because he or she couldn't hurt or kill everyone at once and that maybe they might save their friends' lives if they attacked him/her and knocked the person down by their sheer numbers. I know some people might think that's more than can be expected of kids. I get it. But kids (and adults) under extraordinary circumstances can surprise us with their understanding of the meaning of courage and sacrifice.


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Love those teachable moments...
Old 02-27-2018, 05:45 AM
 
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thecoast, you are so right... one of the "facts" around most school shootings that most people (and the media) haven't connected is that a shooter who meets with strong resistance often takes his own life at that point--so the sooner the resistance, the less lives lost. (Not so in Florida, but many of the other incidents such as Newtown and Nickle Mines.) I believe these incidents are often about power and control--when the shooter realizes he's about to lose power and control, he ends it by ending his own life.

Obviously, that won't be true 100% of the time.

I'm a student of situational awareness and encourage others to be one. Thinking about situations before they happen can prepare us to respond more effectively because there isn't any one way to handle a situation any more than there is one "solution" to a problem.

A key in your post is
Quote:
But kids (and adults) under extraordinary circumstances can surprise us with their understanding of the meaning of courage and sacrifice.
Too often we are derelict in our duty of teaching that. We constantly underestimate human potential--especially kids. We are living in a victim-based culture where there is no personal responsibility and, as a result, people feel powerless and incapable. I have said so many times, the biggest challenge I face is convincing students they CAN learn--it doesn't matter if they are five or fifty. (I also teach adults.) Our educational system is, I think, fundamentally flawed on this point... that might be a different topic.

So we are back to the power issue again when the only way to feel powerful is to be a bully and, perhaps ultimately, a shooter--or the person who writes "bomb" on the bathroom wall just to see everyone run.
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Movie example for teaching courage
Old 02-27-2018, 07:56 PM
 
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@MaineSub: There are two scenes from "A Bug's Life" that I think might actually be teaching tools.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLbWnJGlyMU

The link above is where the chief grasshopper tells the rest of the grasshoppers what would happen if the ants figured out that they outnumber the grasshoppers 100:1.

The next link is where the ants realize they can stand up against the grasshoppers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpPDnGXYFy4


This is a fun way to get the idea across and then some kind of age-appropriate training that would still include a drill (that actually might be traumatizing for some) that would include a familiar teacher acting as a shooter without a gun; then a familiar teacher acting as as a shooter with a toy gun; then an unfamiliar person with a toy gun; then that unfamiliar person or a familiar person with a plastic but realistic-looking assault rifle or realistic-looking hand gun. In every case, the children would learn to rush the shooter carrying chairs or desks (contingent on size of the child), and push the shooter over. There would be a couple of designated kids to run and call for adults to help.

I think this would be a way for kids to feel that--even though they're little--they can have a sense of self-control, a sense that even a situation like that isn't hopeless if they keep their cool and act quickly.

What do you think about this training scenario? Do you remember any other children's movies with segments like these?
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Old 02-28-2018, 02:32 AM
 
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Ummm... Perhaps with older children, but I personally wouldn't use these with younger children. I would want to watch the entire program before judging, but it seems to me there more be more application to politics and society than school violence. Does this promote class warfare?

While there is some logic in your proposal that we teach kids to rush the shooter, I can't imagine a district adopting it and including "training." Who gets to decide which children are allowed to run for help (likely escaping harm)? (I do think we are over-emphasizing "hide" as a solution.)

I can imagine an eight-year-old going home and telling mom and dad, "Today we learned how to attack a shooter at our school." How many parents are going to support that? I don't as a teacher and would not as a parent.

I can't picture a situation where I would ask my students to rush a shooter. I can picture a situation where I would rush a shooter while the children escape.

Yes, I think kids need to learn self-control and discover what they are capable of... I believe many of these shooters have not and that's why they turn to violence--to gain a sense of power. Until we have explored the many different ways to make our schools secure and safe, let's not sacrifice the kids.
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Specific situation
Old 02-28-2018, 04:34 PM
 
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The training here is for a very specific situation. It is similar to the response of the flight that went down in Pennsylvania on 9/11. They realized what the plane's purpose was and they preferred to die than have thousands die at the hands of the terrorist pilots. If parents are informed of what the training is for, they can always be told that the alternative is not having anyone come back home as a survivor. This is conceptually very difficult. Like having to put your oxygen mask on before you put it on your kids, it's difficult because it sounds selfish, but it is the exact opposite because you can't help your kids if you're passed out. At first, I expect this idea will receive a LOT of resistance. But until the potential for this kind of situation can be completely eliminated, it must remain on the table as a necessary even if naturally anxiogenic option for a very specific circumstance.
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