Tuesday, August 30, 2016

It starts with one little seed...



8 years ago our school got it's first taste of Conscious Discipline.  At that point in time the fabulous Kim Hughes was doing her administrative internship with us and used that opportunity to introduce the concepts, skills and structures needed to set up a school family.  She planted a seed.

But I wasn't at our school then.  At that point in time I was at another school, plugging away doing what I thought was best for my students based on the skills I possessed.  We had a flip chart - yes, a flip chart in specials!  It only had 3 levels - green, yellow and red.  At the beginning of a lesson all students were on green, but throughout the class they might be instructed to go move their clips to yellow (a warning) and then red (time out).  At the time I thought it was brilliant (and so did my administrators).  All I had to do was say, "go move your clip," to a child and suddenly the rest of the class straightened up.  I couldn't see that such public forms of discipline (not only the chart itself, but the act of making a child flip their clip in front of the whole class) served to humiliate, not educate.  And so I did the best I could with the skills I had.

6 years ago I transferred to our school.  Remember that seed that Kim had planted?  There were a few trees flourishing.  One particular kindergarten teacher, Ashley, had latched onto the impact Conscious Discipline had on her students and continued to deepen her own knowledge as well as lead a monthly staff cohort for any interested teachers.  That first year she reached out and invited me to join them.  I bought the book.  (Sometimes I even read it.)  I attended the monthly meetings and listened to what was presented.  But my mind was filled with disbelief.  This is kiddie stuff.  It will never work in a dance class.  It's hogwash.  Who's got time for this?  I thought I was giving up on CD.  But despite my best attempts at discrediting its usefulness in my life, a seed was still planted.  

4 years ago I was asked to join 6 other staff members at a 3 day Conscious Discipline retreat.  The selling point was that it would be fully funded by our PTA and would take place at the beach.  A free trip to the beach?  I was there.  Once again, I listened as the basic concepts were presented, but this time I found myself much more open to the idea of CD implementation.  I don't know if it was because the school year had ended and I could fully focus, if it was because a was hearing the information for a second time, or if it was because it was a very interactive retreat, but I began to buy in.  I wasn't sold on everything (A Safe Place?  All my kids do is go there to avoid dancing and play with the toys) but I was starting to consider using a few of the structures in my class.  That year we started having meaningful jobs.  And yes, I eventually figured out how to empower my students to use the Safe Place appropriately.  The seed that Ashley had planted 2 years before was being fertilized.  

2 years ago a few of my fellow teachers urged the PTA to send me to the Summer Institute (CD1), a weeklong conference in Orlando.  I joined 180 other people in learning directly from Dr. Becky Bailey, quickly bonded with my table group, and discovered that someone I'd worked with for 4 years was suddenly one of my best friends (love you, Karen!).  I drank the Kool-Aid.  The seed flourished into a tree.

1 year ago I found myself (along with Karen) leading our staff cohort.  I felt like we were on the cusp of something big happening at our school, but we just weren't quite there.  Several other people were starting to drink the Kool-Aid and we had a new principal who seemed interested in learning more about CD but was hesitant to jump in with both feet.  A few more seeds were being planted.

And that brings us to today.  Today is exciting.  Two months ago Ashley and I were serving as helpers at our local Summer Institute satellite.  Now our principal has brought Kim back to lead some professional developement sessions for our whole staff.  People who have been resistant to the idea of Conscious Discipline are suddenly starting to discuss implementing a structure here and there.  Others who had already implemented a piece here and there are looking to strengthen their use of CD.  Our 5 main specialists are all working to put Safe Places in their classrooms (this is HUGE!).  Our school climate is gradually changing to that of one big School Family.  

Remember that seed that Kim planted at the beginning?  It took 8 years.  In those 8 years there were days when it looked like Conscious Discipline would never take root.  But she nutured the seed and another seed was planted.  More nuturing and years later we're on the verge of having a whole forest.  A forest!  And so I leave you on this note - no matter how bleak it may seem, there's still hope.  And you never know how far your touch may reach.  I'm so thankful for that one seed that started it all.  

Keep planting seeds, my friends!

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