Tag Archives: bullying

New Course Available Soon!

Substitute teacher class “alumni,” school employees and volunteers take note!

Maine is ranked fourteenth in the United States for deaths by suicide. Suicide in Maine occurs 7-9 times more often than homicide. The State averages 196 deaths by suicide each year; in 2009 alone, 2,800 high school students and 4,000 adults attempted suicide while 6,700 high school students and 27,000 adults considered suicide.

In part for those reasons, the Maine Legislature passed LD 609 several years ago. The bill, simply stated, requires every employee of all school systems to receive one to two hours of Suicide Awareness Training.  “Every employee” means anyone who receives a paycheck and includes substitute teachers, bus drivers, custodians—in fact, it is strongly recommended school volunteers receive the training as well. The training must follow research-based national guidelines.

For the past year, I have been working towards and am now fully qualified to conduct this training. I have completed the NAMI Adult Mental Health First Aid Specialist Training, Youth First Aid Provider Training, Gatekeeper Training, and Train the Trainer training—more than was required to qualify. I did so in part for the very same reasons the Maine Legislature enacted this requirement.

From 2007 through 2011 there were 116 youth (under age 25) suicides in Maine. Of those, 49 were between the ages of 10 and 19. During my training, I learned that the youngest confirmed suicide in Maine last year was an eight-year-old girl—that is almost unimaginable to most people. Those of us who work and play with these kids have a special opportunity to prevent these tragedies.

Hotline NumbersThe workshop will last about two hours and is truly designed for anyone—not just school employees–although the focus will be on youth. The first step in suicide prevention is awareness and understanding of risk factors. The program will also provide an understanding of basic prevention strategies and help attendees become more confident in the some of the basic steps they can take to assist others who may be troubled. There will be ample opportunity for questions and discussion. Attendees will also receive printed resources and information. Training is offered in conjunction with the Maine Suicide Prevention Program, an initiative of the Maine CDC in partnership with NAMI Maine.

PVAEC (Piscataquis Valley Adult Education Cooperative) has already agreed to sponsor the workshop during the winter/spring semester. The program will likely be offered in other adult education programs throughout the area. (Check back for dates!) Also, if any schools or organizations are interested in a program at your location, please let me know. I’ll be happy to work with you. Suicide Prevention is up to all of us.

Combating Bullying…

Cyber bullyWhile admitting it’s very easy to over-simplify the “national epidemic” referred to as “bullying,” I do want to encourage those with an interest in the topic to read at least this one article. October is National Bullying Prevention Month–a program first introduced in 2006. In spite of all the attention we are giving the problem, most sources will concur the problem is actually increasing. The article will explain that bullying is now the “leading form of child abuse.”

Clearly, becoming more aware of the problem is not having an impact on reducing it. I’m forced to speculate that’s because we are focusing on the problem instead of solutions. One of the things I like about this article is that it is solution-oriented and the solutions proposed are both realistic and achievable.

I’d love to tell you more, but don’t want to be a “spoiler.” Read the article for yourself!

 

 

Pre-publication Announcement

Coming in Spring 2013!

Small People; Big Brains – a collection of stories about simplicity, wonder and exploration by “Mr. Boomsma”… Sign up for an email announcement of the date this entertaining and inspiring book making the point that while we are trying to teach kids about life, they can show us how to live.

Registering creates no obligation–just an opportunity!

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Make That Mistake!

read_together_400_clr_3409We were nearly to her classroom door when I complimented my third grade friend. We’d just read together–actually she read to me–and I thought she’d done quite well. She impressed me with her vocabulary when she replied that she was actually much more “fluent” when she read to herself. I of course asked why.

Her reply was about being self concious and therefore “embarassed” when she made a mistake reading outloud. I confess my reply was a straight shot from the hip, “Don’t you ever be embarassed over mistakes when you are reading with me. Mistakes are an important and natural part of learning. And they actually can be fun.”

Usually these conversations are more about how the mind works faster than the mouth, but for some reason her discomfort seemed wrong. Of course we should challenge others to do well and to a healthy extent avoid errors. But the fear of failure can be paralyzing.

Later the same day I ran into my “giggler” friend. A year ago she was reading to me and when she came to the word “briefcase” she read “beer case.” For reasons I still don’t understand, her mistake struck me very funny. She and I ended up with the giggles for longer than was probably appropriate. She still remembers that day and the mistake–fortunately in a happy way that makes us both smile. I think it’s important that we laughed at the mistake; we didn’t laugh at her.

Recent studies are showing that students perform better in school and felt more confident when they were told that failure was a normal part of learning, bolstering a growing body of research that suggests much of the same. When I’m working with adults, I find that an important part of the process is to create a “safe” learning environment where mistakes can be made and judgement gets suspended. To that end, I’ve adopted the “Learner’s Bill of Rights” developed by the folks at Trainer’s Warehouse. Consider two of the ten.

IV. No unreasonable searches and seizures.

While facilitators may search for a right answer, learners have the right to make mistakes. If one is unable to answer a question correctly, the instructor will not cause embarassment.

and

VII. The right to a jury of peers.

You are entitled to a classroom of peers who will not judge or jeer, but make you feel safe and supported when faced with new challenges.

We would do well to consider creating a safe learning environment for others and ourselves. I remember once being part of a team that suffered a major mistake. The team leader said, “Well, we won’t make that mistake again.” I replied, “Nope, we’ll make some different ones.” He was not amused.

Creating a safe learning environment is about a willingness to allow mistakes that is balanced with a desire to “do well.” It’s really about avoiding mistakes, not fearing or focusing on them.

(For copies of the Learner’s Bill of Rights, please contact Trainer’s Warehouse at 800-299-3770 or www.trainerswarehouse.com.)

Problem-solving With Kids

Many regular readers know that I spend quite a bit of time with the kids at school… mostly as a “bookworm” meaning second and third graders get turns reading their favorite books to me. We have a lot of fun and I like to think it encourages a love of reading.  I know I enjoy their friendship and they teach me a lot.

During a recent visit a gaggle of third grade girls cornered me to announce “We have a bullying problem.” Now unless you live under a rock you know that bullying is something taken very seriously at school–volunteers are obligated to report incidents to teachers. I somewhat surprised myself when I responded by asking them, “What have you done about it?”

I was not that surprised when they gave me a fair amount of detail regarding the perpetrator, who’d they’d reported it to, and what the plan was for dealing with it. I am convinced that we often fail as adults by underestimating kids. The situation was well in hand; they just wanted me to know.

My conversation with them reminded me of an event some years ago. I was at my then chiropractor’s office and discovered that Amanda had come to work with her mom due to an accident at school the previous day. She and Tyler, another first grader, collided while playing kick ball.

She was busy managing multiple priorities: being a kid, greeting and visiting patients, entertaining herself, saying “out of the way,” creating art, practicing writing her name, and negotiating more time off rom school with her mom. I considered myself fortunate that she found time in her busy schedule to play with me. Actually, that’s not quite right. She let me play with her.

I found it difficult to “write my name” using those perfectly shaped first grade  letters. But every time I “goofed up” Amanda assured me I was doing fine. She also thought I could draw a pretty good cat.

We of course discussed her accident. When I asked her how she was going to avoid getting hurt again she didn’t hesitate with her answer. She would make sure her and Tyler were on the same team so they were always running in the same direction.

I left clutching the drawing Amanda did for me. (She drew pretty good flowers.) It still hangs in my office as a reminder of the fun we had and the fact that sometimes kids are great problem solvers. Adults are the ones who make things difficult.

 


By my estimation, Amanda is now in her early twenties. I’m sorry I’ve lost touch with her and her Mom… but I hope she’s still drawing flowers!