WSI @ Sally Ride Elementary

Whole School Initiative: Year One at Sally Ride Elementary

Echo Parenting & Education is pioneering a comprehensive new model for creating trauma-informed, nonviolent school communities: The pilot “Whole School” project kicked off on September 18, 2014 at Sally Ride Elementary School in South LA with an ice-cream social and will continue through to the end of the academic year, thanks in part to a grant from the California Endowment.

In this pilot project, the whole school staff – teachers, teachers’ aides, the school nurse, plant manager, yard and office staff – will receive training in nonviolent child-raising and trauma-informed care. In addition, we will be offering parent education in Spanish and English. Through our partnership with A Thousand Joys, we will also be teaching 3rd grade students regulation tools to manage the effects of high stress so that they are better able to learn.

If you are familiar with Echo, then you will know what we mean by nonviolence. But what do we mean by ‘trauma-informed’? The ACES Study revealed that many of our children are suffering from trauma or ‘toxic stress’. This occurs when a child feels physically or emotionally unsafe and is powerless to change the situation. Examples of long-term toxic stress can be witnessing domestic violence, losing a parent through death or divorce, or being routinely shamed or humiliated. Having this information and putting practices in place to reduce the chance of a child being (re)/traumatized is the work of becoming a trauma-informed community.

The good news is that the effects of trauma can be buffered and even healed by a safe, stable relationship with a nurturing caregiver.

This is where Echo and the nonviolent child-raising approach can provide not only prevention but also intervention for children whose lives have been affected by trauma.

Visit this page for updates on our Sally Ride Whole School project or come to our special Sally Ride workshop at our Changing the Paradigm conference March 6, 2015.

 

UPDATES:

Want to hear how things are going with the Sally Ride Whole School Project?  Catherine Daley, principal at Sally Ride Elementary describes our work!

Transforming Schools

Transforming individual families and whole communities with trauma-informed nonviolent child-raising
by Diana Ayala

“Callate ya!” Shut up! These are the words that remained with us after our visit to Sally Ride Elementary School in South LA, the words of a grandma who was called in to pick up her granddaughter at school, and the words that silenced this little girl who had been flooded with emotions. It was easy for us to judge the way the little girl was treated by her grandma, but then we wondered, “What happened to this grandmother when she herself was a little girl? How many times was she silenced with a “Callate ya!” by her own mother, caregivers or teachers?” We imagine that the grandmother was feeling embarrassed and ashamed about her granddaughter’s behavior. Do you remember what it was like to have to go to the Principal’s office as a child? Have you experienced what that’s like as a parent?

Can you imagine a school where grandmothers, mothers, fathers can be greeted with empathy when they have to pick up a child who was “acting out” at school? Can you imagine a school where teachers and all staff have an understanding of how to connect with both children and parents in challenging situations? Here at Echo, we are invested in transforming individual families and whole communities with the trauma-informed nonviolent approach to child-raising, and this is how the The Sally Ride Whole School Pilot Project was born. This project will support the whole school community – parents, students and school staff (teachers, yard staff, cafeteria staff, anyone who comes in contact with a student) – and give them the opportunity to learn about trauma: what it is, how to recognize it, and how to practice regulation techniques. Together, we adults will look at our own childhoods, to experience what we call at Echo, ‘the paradigm shift’. That is the moment when we realize how toxic our conditioning in the punishment and reward paradigm has been, remember what it is like when adults seek to control our behavior and don’t look beneath to find the pain or the stress that is causing us to ‘act out’ or remain hidden by making ourselves as small as possible.

The launch of this ambitious and transformative project took place September 18, 2014 with an Ice Cream Social at the school. We are very grateful to The California Endowment whose support has made this project possible. Click here for details about the Sally Ride Whole School Project.

Peace Corners and a Good Day for Flying

by Louise Godbold, Co-Executive Director
Could it actually work? That is the question we’ve been asking ourselves ever since starting our Trauma-Informed, Nonviolent Whole School pilot project at Sally Ride Elementary. Not out loud, of course, but in the dead of the night when the overwhelming nature of transforming a whole school community on a modest budget in less than one year seems difficult at best, sheer lunacy at worst.

cathyThe Principal at Sally Ride, Catherine Daley, has blurred edges, she is always moving so fast. Her cheerful optimism when it comes to the school, to the students, to the families, is unflagging: She is the embodiment of hope. The staff is overworked, under-resourced, and working in an impacted community, but Cathy’s enthusiasm is catching. That’s why at least 15 of them assembled this Saturday for our first attempt to bring parents and teachers together in a community that is either fearful or in awe of teachers, and where teachers have little information on their students’ families.

Earlier in the day, the teachers gathered to review some of the practical tools they can use in the classroom with our senior trainer, Ariel Wrye. We were intrigued by the reports on ACES Connection about elementary schools using ‘peace corners’ and figured we would introduce the concept to the teachers. It’s like reading about someone who built an airplane and managed to get it to fly. We copied the design, but would anyone actually be audacious enough to take it for a spin?

“Yes,” Christina, the 2nd grade teacher remarked casually, “I was redoing my bathroom so I brought in the bath rug and put it in the corner.” We followed her gaze to a corner that held a bright-blue furry rug, a large teddy bear, a box of squeezy toys and a clicker. “They love the clicker,” Christina informed us.

peacecorner6The other teachers peppered her with questions. Did the kids abuse the peace corner? What did she do when kids were competing to use it? Didn’t it lead to chaos? Christina told us that yes, the first two days the kids all wanted to give it a try, but then they got used to the concept. After those two days were over, Christina allowed the kids themselves to come up with the rules. “One kid at a time. Turn your back on the class. Other people shouldn’t watch the kid in the peace corner. Don’t spend too much time so that others can have a go.” Christina added another rule. “Don’t use during circle time.” One kid came back from the yard just before circle time and said, “Just a minute, just give me a minute in the peace corner.”

That gave Christina another idea. Most of the emotional fallout happens on the yard. Fortunately for her class, Christina had a second bath rug from her redecoration efforts, and she set it in another corner. Now if the students come back from the yard with a running dispute, she will send them to the rug to sort it out between them.

I held my breath during this whole story. The plane flies! It flies!

Later the teachers joined the parents to hear the founder of Echo Parenting & Education, Ruth Beaglehole, talk about nonviolence in child-raising as a social justice issue for children. Children should be afforded the same human rights as anyone else – the right to shelter, the right not to be physically harmed, to have a voice, to be cared for and allowed to grow. The teachers and parents nodded (the Spanish speakers just a tad behind as the translation came over the head sets.)

Our partners for the student component of the project, A Thousand Joys, led the teachers and parents in some of the activities they do with the students. Hilarity ensued during the scarf juggling, parents and teachers laughing and flailing as they tried to catch the colorful chiffon. Peace descended during the breathing and meditation. “I feel so relaxed,” said one of the parents. “I’ve just come out of hospital and this is the first time I’ve felt relaxed.”

At the end of the morning, everyone was thanked, chairs scraped back and we prepared to go home.

“I’d like to say something,” said one of the parents. We all turned back in her direction. She was shaking a little. “I thought it was just going to be the other parents from the [Echo] parenting class,” she said, “but I am so grateful to see the teachers. Thank you for coming.” The teachers beamed and our team exhaled:

This crazy idea might just actually work!