By Mary Getzke, Assistant Principal, Park Elementary
When a child enters school it is their first exposure to be a member of a learning community. Children need to learn critical skills, such as listening and collaborating with peers, being self aware of how their behaviors affect others, and regulating their emotions to multiple situations. It takes practice to be a good classmate so everyone can learn. The Hutchinson School District is fortunate to have school counselors teaching student social emotional skills with an engaging curriculum called Second Step. However, we all learn at a different pace. When a child is struggling with some behaviors we need to refocus our lens and realize the child just has not developed the skill yet. Park Elementary has long adopted Corwin Kornberg’s plan of helping students fix the problem and learn from their decisions. Having time to talk through a poor decision takes time. Children gain confidence and a sense of satisfaction with themselves when they can make positive changes with their behavior.
Park Elementary is also focusing on Dr. Ross Greene’s model called Collaborative Proactive Solutions (CPS). In the CPS model, staff talk to the child about their unsolved problems. The first step in the CPS model is the empathy step. It would sound like this, “Hey I noticed that you have been getting in arguments with your friends at recess, What’s up with that?” At first, the child might shrug their shoulders or say they do not know. Typically, children think they are going to get in trouble so they will not talk or they are not use to having an adult ask for their input. Once the child understands that you really want to help they will open up and talk. I have learned a lot when listening to a child’s concerns and how their concerns are reflected by their behavior.
The second step in the CPS model is to share with the child your concerns. I have been impressed how understanding students have been when I share my concerns. When we model empathy children freely give this empathy back to us.
The third step is the invitation. It would sound like this, “What ideas do you have to solve this problem while considering your concerns and my concerns?” Write down any brainstorming ideas from the student. Share some suggestion yourself too. Ask the child which idea should we try first? When the child has felt heard and included, he/she is much more willing to follow the plan. Have the child pick people they want to include on their team to help their plan be successful. Most of the time the team involves other staff members and parents/guardians.
Handling a child’s lagging skills with the CPS model is time consuming, but time well spent. The Love and Logic Institute tells us that we want children to learn life’s lessons at the smallest cost. Unsolved problems get solved with time and practice. Children need to learn how to handle disappointments, failures, and how to solve their own problems. Helping children through this process builds a trusting relationship with adults and builds their confidence for the future. Learning about natural consequences and how to make healthy decisions is a lifelong skill. I have been fortunate to work with caring staff, great kids, and supportive parents.