Over the past several years, we have witnessed one tragedy after another involving the use of some type of firearm. I would hope we can all agree there are individuals who could benefit from emotional and/or mental intervention.
These tragedies are nearly impossible to predict. If we could predict them, we would of course take appropriate action to protect our communities and schools.
As educators, we work with a captive audience of the community’s young people. What can we reasonably do to support students who struggle with their emotions? We know that students who are unsettled emotionally cannot learn. In District 44, we attempt to take a proactive approach to educating students on how they can successfully cope with the inevitable ups and downs of everyday life.
Over the past two years, District 44 has implemented the use of a screening device to identify students who may struggle socially or emotionally. This device is used for every student. If we do identify students in need, what do we do with this insight? In a few cases it will lead to counseling. However, the majority of our students do not require counseling, but still may benefit from a less invasive intervention.
That is why District 44 has formed a partnership with the Hawn Foundation’s MindUP program. MindUP is a training program and curriculum that cultivates well-being, emotional balance and resiliency in young people. The objective is to integrate MindUP in existing curricula, enriching the school day and equipping students to succeed, in school and in life.
The district is planning to implement a pilot program during the coming school year. We know our staff “gets it” when it comes to the social/emotional connection to learning. More than 100 teachers have volunteered to participate in the pilot. Training begins in August.
Teachers no longer can impart knowledge upon a passive audience, nor can students simply memorize and recite facts. Today’s classrooms must inspire students to become active, engaged, self-directed learners who are willing to persevere in the face of great challenge.
Lombard Elementary District 44 is taking appropriate action to meet this challenge.
Jim Blanche is superintendent of Lombard Elementary District 44