August 2019 - Superintendent's Scoop

As the superintendent of a school district, I am given many opportunities to meet and talk to people from all over. It seems like every time I talk to someone; the conversation eventually leads to how busy their lives are, they are stressed out from the everyday responsibilities, and they just can’t seem to find the time to catch up.

The definition of stress for most people tends to focus on the negative feelings and emotions it produces. Our children are feeling the pressure as well, and view stress as a major component of their lives. It is important for us as educators, parents, and community members to teach our children that even though some situations are hard, there are ways to work through and de-stress.

2014 study by the American Psychological Association found that U.S. teens are more stressed out than adults. 30% of teens reported feeling sad or depressed because of stress, and 31% felt overwhelmed. Another 36% said that stress made them tired and 23% said it made them skip meals.

Although these statistics are alarming, there is hope. I recently read an article from the December 2018, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Education Update that identified the  Five D’s of DESTRESSING. These strategies are vital skills that everyone can implement in their lives.

The first strategy is to Distract from It. Stress can instantly trigger fight, flight, or freeze, our bodies naturally want to regulate our hormones and bring us “back to normal.” This is where a distraction can help. Taking a 10-minute walk, engaging in a fun activity, or listening to your favorite music are just a few examples. When we engage in something else, it can shift our thoughts away from the stressful rumination and allow our bodies and brains a chance to regulate.

Deal with It is the second strategy. Although we struggle facing the issue or problem we are dealing with, sometimes it is necessary in order to find peace and relieve the stress. Stress management is defined as taking charge of lifestyle, thoughts, emotions, and the way you deal with problems. By dealing with the stress we can face the problem head-on and find ways to apply conflict resolution and look for a solution.

The third strategy is to Dispute your Distortions. Sometimes a stressful situation is made worse by our thought patterns. All-or-nothing thinking: something is either great or terrible, with no in-between, or letting one bad thought lead to another. Psychologist William James said, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” If you find yourself in this situation it is important to recognize and reduce biased or distorted thinking.

Discuss It is the fourth strategy. Although it sounds simple, it really is one of the best possible things you can do. Talking with a supportive individual may provide new perspectives and ideas. This year, Sevier School District has hired five mental health specialists to work in our schools. These specialists will be a great resource and avenue for students who are trying to work through stressful situations.

The last strategy is Develop Frontal Control. The human brain is amazing and is built with an emotional control sector. It creates action to help you survive. Your frontal lobe-the logical processing sector- acts as the break pedal. It helps you evaluate your situation and take more rational action. Even though we can’t stop stress responses from activating, we can strengthen our ability to slow them down through deep breathing, mindful meditation, and other calming focus strategies, like counting backward from ten. When we practice these strategies, we are able to activate our emotional “brake pedal.”

Stress is a multi-faceted problem and can’t be entirely eliminated. Everyone including students, educators, parents and community members must acknowledge their role and work together to reduce it. It is vital to develop healthy habits, critical thinking skills, and problem-solving skills so that our students are able to face stressful situations with strategies for stress management and optimism for a bright future. 

To stay up to date with initiatives and strategies that we are working on concerning emotional health and support, check out our webpage www.seviersd.org or follow us on social media. My Twitter handle is @CadeDoug.

June 2018 Superintendent's Scoop

Superintendent’s Scoop

June 2018

Making a lasting impact in the life of a student is a very rewarding experience. Nearly everyone can name a teacher who has left a positive impression on their life in one-way or another. Students who receive support and encouragement from one-caring adult while in school can improve academic success. Our goal is to have all students feel as though his or her teacher cares about them, believes in them, and leaves a lasting positive impression.

Just like students, teachers need support and positive relationships. One way to provide that support is through instructional coaches. This year an equalization bill was passed by the legislature that helped provide funding toward hiring instructional coaches for each school. The funding for the instructional coach was calculated and allocated according to the school’s student count.

Teachers are lifelong learners always seeking opportunities to grow and searching for ways to become innovative in their classrooms. Instructional coaches work collaboratively with educators and help them become better teachers. They observe teachers teaching, go over instructional data, and model good teaching practices. No matter what age or how long a teacher has been teaching, there is always room for growth and new ideas.

Robert John Meehan said, “The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration, our growth is limited to our own perspectives.” Instructional coaches play a support role to teachers. When a teacher inherits the desire to improve and the relationship is built on trust, personalized professional growth for every teacher is possible. Students win in buildings with instructional coaches.

Cheryl Wright, an instructional coach at Washington High School in Kansas City said, “Having the culture of coaching is contagious and can spread to teachers at all levels of the career ladder. If you set it up so people see others benefiting from coaching and succeeding, and they see that the process is grounded in respect, then they [will also] want to try it.”

Our desire is to create a culture of feedback for every aspect of our school district. We know having these new instructional coaches in our schools will provide a bright future for our teachers and students. Teachers will have additional resources to make improvements and provide students with a positive impression–one that hopefully, they will never forget.

Reference:

Kim Greene, ASCD- Every Coach for Every Teacher, March 2018 Volume 60, Number 3

Superintendent's Scoop June 2017

June 2017

Superintendent Scoop

My parents taught me at a young age, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Be, Kind, Specific and Helpful. These are the three basic rules outlined in Ron Berger’s “Austin’s Butterfly” model when critiquing others and specifically when critiquing our peers. Coauthor of Creating a Culture of Feedback, Bill Ferriter said, “When students receive critical feedback on their work or performance, “their gut reaction is to push back against that feedback, to try to defend themselves in some way, shape or form.” This common reaction is a byproduct of the historically evaluative nature of schools. Most feedback given to kids is an assessment of some kind and provided by an authority figure, whether that person is a parent, coach, or a teacher. “We judge everything our students do in a quest for data intervention, and accountability and that’s super unhealthy.” As a result, when students are placed in a peer feedback situation, even if the input they get is constructive, “they’re looking to get out of it as quickly as possible.” Ferrieter believes the best way to head off that “gut reaction” is to strip away any judgment attached to feedback. We need to make sure that kids feel safe and that receiving feedback is a positive experience.

Berger offers three rules for effective peer feedback. These three simple rules are great for parents to keep in mind when critiquing children and are excellent in any situation when constructive communication occurs.

Rule one, “Wording things kindly is not only the right thing to do, but it’s a more effective way to do it.” By using “I” (instead of “you”) statements when giving feedback, students will begin to replicate that kind of inquiry and recognize it as a gentle nudge and personal opinion rather than a global statement that assumes that you’re right about them all.

The second rule of peer critique is that is has to be specific. One reason people tend to provide generic feedback is because they don’t always know what criteria to focus on. Feedback should focus specifically on “any small part of the bigger whole that you’re working in.” When working with students, they need “rich and deep conversations” and plenty of practice to know how to give “thoughtful, specific feedback about one dimension of the work,” says Berger.

The third and final rule of critique is that it has to be helpful. If we provide examples of what helpful critique looks like, students will pick up the language of feedback and they will get better at it over time.

Researcher John Hattie places educator feedback in the top 15 of 195 practices that affect student learning and achievement. In order for feedback to be successful, Hattie argues that it has to be timely and direct. Ron Berger concludes “Once you’ve taught students how to be really strong at peer critique... then [they] will not only do it in formal critique sessions, but they’ll start supporting each other’s work all the time.”  

When giving feedback or critique on something or to someone, we should all strive to remember the basic guidelines. Be Specific, Helpful and above all be Kind. 

McKibben (2017). Peer Feedback Without the Sting. ASCD Education Update, 59(5), 1,4-5.

Inspire the mind, create a passion for learning, educate for success in life.


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