Promising Outcomes for a Highly Traumatized Student and His Stressed Teacher
Category: i.b.mee. Institute Research
16 Audubon Drive
Asheville, NORTH CAROLINA 28804
Primary Research Question
What are the effects of the Empowered PartnershipTM Teacher Practices and Concepts (EP’s) with a highly traumatized Kindergarten student?
Secondary Research Question
What are the teacher challenges in learning and implementing the Empowerment Education model?
Abstract & Results
Although manageable levels of stress are normative and growth-promoting, toxic stress in the early years negatively impact learning, social relationships, behavior and health.1-5, 12-13,23 In this informal case study, we examined the efficacy and outcomes of research-based Empowered PartnershipTM Teacher Practices and Concepts (EP’s) in a Kindergarten classroom with a highly traumatized student, Alice. The teacher was trained and coached (at least one time/week) in EP’s over a two year period during live classroom time and personal coaching. In the second year, a “high ACE”³ (6-7) student was identified and notes were taken to document this process. Teacher self-reported student behaviors were recorded, and the student DESSA was collected. Teacher challenges were also reported.
The results indicated that Empowered PartnershipTM Practices and Concepts gave the teacher an effective resiliency-building framework to use with a high ACE student on a daily basis in the classroom. Alice not only improved her social, emotional, and resiliency skills, but also became more academically motivated and engaged. In addition, the teacher considerably changed her perspective and increased her confidence in her classroom behavioral management techniques and as a result enjoyed being a teacher much more. The benefits of EP’s trickled down and powerfully and positively affected all students in the classroom and created an environment of student empowerment. All students showed visible signs of increased resilience, emotional and social skills, and academic engagement. There were some challenges in training the teacher (time and support), as well as being allowed to create this type of environment in a school that was not totally sure about how these changes would affect academics. There is a need for further research and implementation of these skills in the classroom.
The School: The school is an elementary in Asheville NC.
The Teacher: The teacher volunteered to do this study based on her knowledge of current brain science being used to create “compassionate schools” and the lack of “know how” to implement this research in the classroom.
The Student’s Challenges: Alice was the student chosen for the informal case study. She had been in educational Occupational, Physical, Psychological, Speech and Language therapy prior to coming to Kindergarten. During the first few weeks, the following behaviors were recorded. -Does not know the alphabet, cannot read, poor listening comprehension, cannot identify any words, is moody, physically aggressive when triggered, low self-concept and esteem, overly sensitive to loud noises and nonverbal cues, cries easily, poor peer relationships, cannot express herself very well, avoids difficult tasks, does not work independently, does not follow directions, does not remain in seat, does not turn in assignments, does not make transitions well, does not complete tasks, has difficulty with memory. Does not like to wait her turn. Has the most challenges in Centers where she has to work with other kids sharing and being respectful. Avoidance of hard tasks and morning meetings/all group meetings. “I can’t”. “I don’t know how”. Extremely high expectations of self.
Alice says Mom calls her names (bully) and tells her to shut up. She believes there are monsters in her head and they are scary and real. She talks about bullies and how they hit your head. Alice feels bullied by her step siblings and that her dad likes them more.
Extreme behaviors including lengthy screaming fits (8X/day from 3 minutes to a majority of the day), throwing items, hitting, pushing, yelling at peers and teachers, running away, hiding, destructive behaviors, choking, self-harm, and self-deprivating talk.
The Student’s Strengths: Alice can rote count and sort in Math. She is quickly learning to use her words. She loves to write and draw. She can ask good questions. Her writing is improving quickly. Strong Motor Skills; she loves to move; dance and go to PE. She likes to talk and tell stories. She loves music. She is creative and possesses leadership qualities. Athletic. Takes pride in appearance.
The Coach: Permission was granted by the county school system for the “Teacher Coach” to visit the classroom one time per week to train the teacher in these skills. The coach had previously taught these practices to another teacher for 2 years. The coach would model the EP skills with students and coach the teacher on the fly in the classroom. The coach was a certified life and wellness coach (Board Certified Coach) and had 15 years in the school systems (public, private and collegiate) and experience supervising teachers during her Ph.D. Educational Program.
The certified coach and trained teacher supervisor trained a Kindergarten Teacher in Empowered Partnership™ Practices and Concepts during class time 95%. 5% of the time the coach met with the teacher outside of the classroom coaching and training. This usually occurred on a Sunday face-to-face, over Skype, or by phone. The Main Empowered Partnership™ Practice that was taught during this 2 year period was called the WAVE PROCESS™.
The WAVE Process™ is a 4-step mindful communication and coaching practice that integrates the body-mind, releases stress and negative tension, moving one out of fight, flight, or freeze into a relaxed, safe, and open learning mode where one is self-regulated, resilient, and making choices from the higher-brain. It is the HOW to truly connect with yourself and another person creating Empowered PartnershipsTM.
No training materials were used to train the teacher. Just in-real-time coaching, modeling, and teaching with the students and the teacher were used.
School Behavior Data and Teacher Self-Reported information were collected but not on a consistent basis. (TIPS, Check-In, Check-out, Daily Quantitative Behavior Chart, Think Sheets)
The WAVE Process™ and the Empowered Partnership™ other practices and concepts that the teacher learned over a two year period were very effective in helping an extremely troubled kindergarten student (and all the other students) change to be more regulated, resilient, emotionally intelligent, and motivated to learn (empowered) in the 2nd year.
However, at first, Alice was only making a little progress with emotional resiliency, motivation to learn, and social skills in December using the WAVE Process with her and EP Practices and Skills in the classroom. Academic growth and compliant behavior were the primary goals of Alice’s school experience emphasized by the administration. However, with all the carrot and stick behavioral activities the administration wanted to do, it was not working; it was causing shame in Alice. Her behavior was not changing much. Finally, in April, with coaching support, the teacher decided to totally shift into the new Empowered Partnership™ paradigm and put aside the old behavioral system and just use what she was learning in the new paradigm. This began with the total acceptance or where Alice was and not trying to make her “more, better, different and right”. For about a week Alice got to choose all her activities using the WAVE Process™ communication tool as the framework. These behaviors began to occur. (Written by the teacher.)
- She is transitioning with the group. She still likes space in the back of the line.
- She is responsive to her friends (2 students who are tolerant and mature) encouragement and support.
- She is playing in caring ways with the stuffed animals and babydolls. She puts the to sleep and feeds them. She is calm and focused as she plays. Sometimes she will allow other students to help. During clean-up time she is allowed to focus on this task.
- She is participating in writing during writing time (her highest skill.)
- She asks, “Is it time to clean up?”
- She remembers her green folder to take home.
- She will sit with the teacher during group and allow others to have turns.
- When she had a temper tantrum, she used the space place and they were shorter.
As the teacher moved totally into the EP framework, Alice began to thrive. “Alice is enjoying school now. She is not made to be in any specific place or activity. She has choice. Many times she chooses to join us for stories. She loves our dancing and calming activities. She asks to do them. She chooses to sit with a table group now. Outside she is developing games with friends and trying to be part of the group. She cries less and her tantrums are much shorter”. (1-2X/day about 2-3 minutes long)
Overall, the teacher (and coach) believed that the Empowered PartnershipTM Practices and Concepts gave her an effective resiliency-building framework to use with a high ACE student on a daily basis in the classroom. Alice not only improved her social, emotional, and resiliency skills, but also became more academically motivated and engaged. In addition, the teacher considerably changed her perspective and increased her confidence in her classroom behavioral management techniques and as a result enjoyed being a teacher much more. The benefits of EP’s trickled down and powerfully and positively affected all students in the classroom and created an environment of student empowerment. All students showed visible signs of increased resilience, emotional and social skills, and academic engagement.
- No time to self-report
- Pressure from testing
- Increased shame and stress
- Fear of not measuring up
- Falling back to the old paradigm
- Difficult to keep up with curriculum
- Alice’s behavior got worse with unleashed trauma and old paradigm behavioral management
- Assessment takes away from connection
- Feeling isolated
- Assistant not trained
- Not seeing parents at pick-up
- Not enough time for 1 on 1 coaching
- Stuck between both paradigms
- Not totally empowered to be herself in the classroom
- Shame for not being able to control Alice
- Alice Failure created feelings of “not good enough”
- Fear of being rejected
Concepts Taught to Teacher and Students
- Biology Of Adversity
- Triune Brain
- Mind-Body Syndrome
- Positive Focus
- Growth Mindset – entity and incremental theory of intelligence
- Curiosity-Open Mode
- Empowered Choice
- Respectful Community
- Fostering Independence (choice and motivation)
- Recognizing Personal Gifts
- Not Being Perfect (Oops)
- Personality Parts
- All Are Creative, Capable And Complete I>E>S
- Highest Needs: Contribution And Learning
- Not Pushing Academics But Learning
- Normalizing Fear, Anxiety And Sadness
- Research On Compassionate Schools
Practices Taught to the Teacher and Students
- Playing for Learning
- Passion Project
- Student led activities
- Project based Learning
- Space Or Support
- Student Centered Classroom Guidelines
- Positive Self Talk
- WAVE Yourself
- WAVE The Student
- Individualized Re-Teaching
- Building Trust
- Space Place
- Emoticon Picture Chart
- Holding Space
- Yoga/Brain Gym
- Picture Cues
- Art Expression
- Town Meetings
- Whole Group Empowerment Games
- Family Empowerment Meetings
- Empowered Redirection
- Build On Strengths And Passions
- Recognizing When An Intervention, Activity Or Person Is A Negative Stimulus.
- Social Stories
- Student Appreciation
- Optimistic Improvement
- Skill Feedback
- Student Partners
- Win-Win Agreements
- Movement Breaks
- Personal Boundaries
- Role Playing To Act Out Challenges
- Self-Report Behavioral Management System
- Group Expression – Seen/Felt/Heard
- Student Blogging
- Empowered Empathy
- Student Self Praise
- Teacher Validation And Empowerment “What did you learn?” “Tell me about it.” “How would you change it?”
- Emotional Resiliency
- Integrating Into The Community
- Co-Creating Class Celebrations
- Setting Personal Boundaries
- Empowered Conflict Resolution
- Picture/video Cues for learning
Conclusions & Implications:
Coaching the teacher in the classroom over a 2 year period works effectively with kindergarten students and a highly traumatized student when teaching Empowered Partnership™ Practices and Skills. (With the main skill being the WAVE Process™.) All students gained visible signs of increased social, emotional, and resiliency skills, but also became more academically motivated and engaged in self-choice and teacher-directed learning. Even though the coach and the teacher experienced the shift in the classroom, more formal research is needed with these practices to show statistically their results.
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Category: i.b.mee. Institute Research
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