It was such a pleasure to connect with each of you during the closing keynote, Taking Your Seat at the Table: Be Brave, Be Dynamic, Make it Count! As promised, I am answering the questions here that I didn't get a chance to answer during our time together. I wish you much success in during this upcoming school year. It will be a journey and there will be ups and downs, but remember – you’ve got this, you were built for this moment!
How do you drive staff if they are negative or not willing to change? What practices do you recommend to remain resilient?
Although change is constant, it can be difficult for some. It is important to remember that as you try to implement a new initiative or idea. I have found that most people are willing to try something new if they understand the “why,” can see their role in the bigger picture, and have a clear plan. Additionally, building consensus to get key people on board and ensuring the flow of information to key stakeholders along the way are key elements to maintain momentum and gain traction. Those things also great the positive and upward trends that help attract to the change. As a school community, it is critical to also take time to reflect and process what was learned at key points along any initiative journey. That reflection and implementation of “new” information will help improve outcomes and build more buy-in as teachers reflect on how they can improve and provide students with a safe and supportive learning environment. I also believe in the idea of failing forward. Every failure is an opportunity to learn. In order to maintain the resiliency required to do the aforementioned, we must ensure we are taking care of ourselves. This includes, getting enough sleep, finding time to spend with those we love (away from work), finding inspiration and joy, and cultivating space to just be. I highly recommend yoga, a moment of mindfulness, building strong relationships, and to continuously take a learning stance.
How did you inform the parents/guardians of the changes you wanted to institute at Fenger? And, were they receptive?
Communication to parents/guardians happened in parent and local school council meetings. On-going communication about new initiatives/changes came from team leaders, teachers, deans, and other staff members throughout the year. Parents became more receptive once they started to see that we were providing additional supports and services and how the changes were positively changing the overall school climate and culture.
Should we consider implementing criterion for all educators to share the significance of including the school nurse at the forefront?
We all know the saying “inspect what you expect” and I think that if we want to highlight the significant role the school nurse plays implementing criteria for all educators and schools would be a great start. The good news is that NASN already has a framework for this and school districts have a framework for teaching and learning! These frameworks can be used as a starting point for rich conversations about the importance of student health and the role school nurses and educators play in supporting the whole child.
When administrators and/or teachers are focused on seat time and see time away from class for mental health as a deterrent to education, how can we begin to change their perception of the importance of mental health?
As a society, we need to grapple with healthcare inequities and prioritize mental health and wellness, especially now that we are in the middle of a pandemic. There will be long-lasting mental health impacts for our staff and students because of COVID-19. At the school level, it is important to discuss how mental health impacts students. As school-based professionals, we need ongoing dialogue and professional development on the significant impact mental health can have on student behavior AND learning. However, it is important to recognize that schools can’t serve every need. While addressing mental health is critical in the school setting, there should also be resources outside of schools that support students regardless of their zip code or income level. Schools cannot continue to be the de facto health system for our children. A good question to ask yourself: What mental health and wellness resources do our students have access to outside of the school building?
What are some resources for learning about Trauma informed care/education specific to a school setting?
There are a plethora of resources around social and emotional learning and many school districts across the country have created frameworks for including it in curricula. There is no need to start from scratch! For resources regarding how trauma impacts learning, behavior, and relationships in schools, I highly recommend: Helping Traumatized Children Learn and Creating and Advocating for Trauma-Informed Schools. You can download them for free at traumasensitiveschools.org.