Educator Spotlight

The Coronavirus Pandemic changed the sense of normalcy for schools and educators across the nation. The trials and errors of shifting to an online mode of learning became something of a shared experience for teachers and students alike. However, the Pandemic also highlighted the creativity and passion of educators across the nation, as they have grappled with ways to keep their students engaged and learning, even from a (social) distance.

A day in the life of educator Schuyler Porter, teaching from his truck.

One such educator, Schuyler Porter, works at Tuba City Boarding School in Tuba City, AZ. He is a social studies teacher. During this last school year, Porter would drive to a local chapter hall to get internet service for his classes. He went there daily, connecting to the building’s wifi, and teaching his classes.

There are hundreds of thousands of similar stories of educators, like Porter, going the extra mile for their students. Although this has been the norm for many teachers, the Pandemic has brought these stories to the forefront.

Effective Family Leadership Summit 2021

Effective Family Leadership Online Summit – June 8th, 2021

Our Partnership Manager, Richard Long, will be featured in an upcoming online summit held June 8th, 2021!

Rebekah Tayebi, a certified family therapist and founder of Satya Family Coaching, has put together a (free!) online conference on effective family leadership with the focus on helping parents become mindful, confident, and connected to their family members.

Speakers and presenters at the conference include experts such as Kenn Bivins, author of 39 Lessons for Black Boys & Girls, Krissy Pozatek, author of The Parallel Process, and our own partnership manager, Richard Long, who’s career has been focused on education and restorative practices.

The conference will be held on June 8, 2021. For more information and to tune in, click here.

Education Lifeskills offering Restorative Practices Professional Development Workshops

The International Institute of Restorative Practices defines Restorative Practices as “an emerging social science that studies how to strengthen and repair relationships between individuals as well as social connections within communities.” Research conducted on restorative practices in schools have found a range of positive results, including significantly reduced suspension rates, reduced enrollment for alternative schools, and a safer school environment.

Education Lifeskills is proud to offer Restorative Practice Professional Development workshops for schools and districts. Each of the three workshops is designed to meet school and district needs, whether they have had previous Restorative Practice training or not.

Workshops include a Participant Handbook and an optional copy of The Outward Mindset by the Arbinger Institute

Spearheading these workshops is our Partnership Manager, Richard Long, who specializes in providing tiered interventions, restorative frameworks, and youth and adult leadership models.

Below, he gives his thoughts on the development of the RP workshops, and the feedback from schools and districts thus far.

So why the Restorative Practices Workshops?

First, Richard says, there were people in his life that helped him along the way, and this is a way to pay it forward. “I had people in my life that had this kind of mindset [of] what it takes to help kids and that was big.”

Second, he cites his work career. “Since 2003, my entire career has been along the base of something restorative: the ANASAZI [foundation], Child Protective Services, therapeutic schools, behavioral health care centers, and finally public high schools. In each of these, I was involved in a process of restoration.”

And last, but definitely not least, it would seem that Restorative Practices as a framework is in demand, as educators seek to move away from more traditional practices. “There was a demand for [restorative practices] – that’s how it all started,” he continues. “I presented at a conference, and an educator came up to me afterwards and said, ‘I need you to come and train my staff on what you just did.'” This, he says, became a trend as requests came in at conferences, from conversations with associates, as well as from current clients. There was a clear need for a Restorative Practices framework, and Richard’s own background and experience matched up; the rest is history.

Richard Long presenting an adapted workshop at Amplus Academy, NV

What Restorative Practices Workshops have been like so far

It has been a little over a year now since Education Lifeskills began offering RP Professional Development workshops. The COVID-19 pandemic that swept the world was an unforeseen hiccup. Adjustments were made and workshops were scheduled responsibly.

What have they been like? “It’s been a really great response. The workshops have been awesome and I’ve really enjoyed doing it,” says Richard.

However, shifting away from more traditional disciplinary measures may not be easy, for the simple fact that traditional, exclusionary discipline measures have always been the norm.

“Traditional discipline practices are so ingrained, such a huge part of what happens in education because it’s what we’ve done forever,” says Richard Long, our Partnership Manager, who spent years as a teacher and administrator. Thus, the Restorative Practices Professional Development workshops become a tool in helping educators make the shift from the traditional discipline model.

2020 Global Youth Justice Court Conference

Global Youth Justice Court Conference Day 1

This year, the Global Youth Justice Conference was held in Las Vegas, NV. The multi-day conference included teen court agencies, peer jury diversion programs, court officials, and other youth intervention organizations from across the country.

Can Peer Pressure be used for good?

On a scientific level, yes, and it is called positive peer pressure. A recent study by Laurence Steinberg of Temple University found that the brains of teenagers showed activity in regions associated with rewards when they were around their peers. Follow up studies by Steinberg and his team also found that adolescents “learn more quickly and more effectively when their peers are present.” This effectively proves that peer pressure does not necessarily have to be a negative thing.

As a youth-oriented program ourselves, Education Lifeskills attended the 2020 Global Youth Justice Conference. Safety precautions were taken prior to and during the event to ensure safety. Richard Long, ACCI Partnership Manager, and Trevor Lloyd ACCI President were both in attendance at the conference. They had the opportunity to present on the Education Lifeskills program, the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) approach we take, and the successes we have seen in reducing recidivism (or re-offending) rates in schools that we work with. We truly believe that addressing faulty thinking patterns with a restorative approach can help to stem the school-to-prison pipeline.

Youth prevention and recidivism reduction is something we are passionate about, and we are always happy to associate with and learn from others with the same enthusiasm.

For Students: 7 Ways to Manage Stress During COVID-19

Many students are experiencing increased stress levels right now. A survey by BestColleges found that 78% of households with a high school or college student experienced disruptions due to COVID-19. Of those affected by COVID-19, 81% cited that they were experiencing increased stress. These feelings of stress and anxiety can stem from uncertainty about the present and future. Know that you are not alone, and there are ways to manage and cope with these feelings in healthy ways.

As an additional resource, Education Lifeskills is offering a COVID-19 micro-course designed to assist students overcome the many issues associated with returning to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. Check it out here!

1. Acknowledge Yourself

You have likely felt the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, and this may affect how or even when you return to school. You may have had feelings of worry, uncertainty, or disappointment. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to validate these feelings. Acknowledge the concerns that you may have and understand that these feelings are a response to events happening around you, and it is normal and understandable to have them. Acknowledgment is the first step to managing your stress in a healthy way.

2. Stay informed, but don’t panic

With a lot of information circulating about the coronavirus, it can be easy to get lost in the whirl of information. Trying to discern between fact and fiction can be difficult, causing anxiety and fear. However, the anecdote to fear is knowledge. When we know what to expect, we can be better prepared.

Joseph McGuire, Ph.D, M.A. a psychologist with Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO) as credible sources to stay up-to-date. “Knowledge and preparation can help reduce feelings of panic. Individuals can use information from trusted resources to develop personal plans of action.”

The CDC has published guidelines to help you with best practices for school and travel. Practice good hygiene by washing your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds, or using hand sanitizer. Cough or sneeze into your elbow. Be mindful of others by wearing a mask and practicing social distancing when possible.

3. Schedule Digital Down Time

Information over-load is a thing. Everyday, we are bombarded with information, and a lot of static noise; videos, photos, tweets, likes, messages, and more. While it is good to stay informed, constant monitoring of updates can quickly turn counterproductive, and become a source of anxiety. Schedule some digital down time to help prevent becoming overwhelmed i.e. no phones/media between the 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

4. Know Your Limits

Though knowledge is key to preparation, these do not guarantee the elimination of stress. Check in with yourself regularly to gauge how you are doing mentally and emotionally. Take care of yourself by taking breaks throughout the day or week as needed.

If your challenges have led to substantial mental health problems, consider seeking professional help.

5. Take care of your mind and body

When you find yourself getting overwhelmed with concerns and negativity, mindfulness is a good way to manage your stress. Mindfulness encourages awareness and acceptance.

Anxiety is often caused by ruminating over negative thoughts about the past or the future. Mindfulness focuses on grounding ourselves in the present. Try this simple, yet effective, exercise. It works to calm our irrational thoughts and allow our rational brain to refresh.

Do something for your body, such as exercise or some form of physical activity. Physical activity is a natural relaxation technique for our bodies. According to Harvard Health Publishing, exercising helps to “exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress.”

This does not necessarily mean that you have to sweat it out at the gym or run five miles in order to de-stress (although you can if you would like). Sometimes it can be as simple as taking a walk around the block, or to the park. With more schools opting for online and/or remote learning, getting outside can create a much-needed change in scenery, and relax the strain on your body and mind.

7. Focus on what you can control

There are a lot of things outside of our control, especially during this time of upheaval. We cannot control how others act or behave, or even what the future may be like. Part of the human experience is the need to know and understand, so it may be difficult to accept that there are things we cannot control. However, if we do not recognize and accept that we cannot control everything, we will inevitably wound up feeling drained, anxious, and miserable.

Rather than fixating on what you cannot control, focus on what you can control. For example, you cannot control how others behave but you can control your actions. You can stay informed, be mindful of yourself, and of others by following guidelines recommended by public health officials.