Friday, September 28, 2018

Start With Hello

by Russ Becker

This week, Medfield’s R.E.N.E.W Project and Friends of Rachel club have been hard at work promoting the “Start With Hello” Movement. Start With Hello is put on by Sandy Hook Promise and it aims increase the welcoming nature of our school while decreasing social isolation among our students. The movement began with a simple idea that if you see someone by themselves, isolated and alone, sometime all you have to do is say hello to make them a part of your community. All week we have had students reading announcements to highlight the spirit of the movement, and we have handed out bingo boards that will encourage students to talk to others they may not know very well. Tomorrow our week concludes with a photo booth and a signed pledge to foster social inclusion at lunch. If you would like to know more please reach out and don’t forget to Start With Hello!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Medfield Schools Attend D.A. Morrissey’s Collaborative Problem Solving Seminar

Press Release from the Norfolk County District Attorney's Office

Nationally acclaimed speaker and author Dr. J. Stuart Ablon, a Psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, was the guest of Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey at an all-day training to help school districts deal with and find durable solutions to the most challenging and disruptive behaviors.

“The year after New York Police began training their school safety officers in Dr. Ablon’s ‘Think:Kids’ Collaborative Problem Solving® model in 2013, there was a 58 percent decrease in arrests made at school and 20 percent decrease in the reports of major crimes,” District Attorney Morrissey said. “Norfolk County schools may have different issues than any metropolis, but the solutions he offers work across demographics.”

More than 110 educators, school nurses, psychologists and adjustment counselors – including 40 school resource officers – took part in the September 20 event including Russ Becker, the adjustment counselor for Blake Middle and Medfield High School.

“Dr. Ablon’s methods are simple, but not easy. They start from the premise, rooted in research, that most kids ‘do well if they can’,” Morrissey said. “When they act out in school, the adults around them can be trained to work with them to identify, then teach the skills they need to succeed.”

The “Think: Kids” method is the opposite of permissiveness, but also avoids ineffective punishment models, Morrissey said. Instead, educators and school resource officers are trained in Collaborative Problem Solving – meaning the students are strategically engaged in coming up with resolutions to the conflict. In doing so, they improve skills that will prevent the problem from recurring.

“The new criminal justice reform act changes the role of school resource officers, removing them from enforcing school rules and discipline,” District Attorney Morrissey said. “Our training today provides information on research-based interventions being used across the country to address challenging student behavior without resorting to police powers or punitive steps.”

The research shows that collaborative problem solving creates more durable solutions to problematic behavior than either permissiveness or punitive action, and the District Attorney also sees benefits for the students as they age into adulthood.

“Helping students overcome poor impulse control, inability to manage irritability or disappointment, or help them learn to manage conflict – all while still in the safe environment of a school – can only help their future,” Morrissey said. “Spend a morning in any district courtroom and you will see petty assaults, property destruction and other crimes that arise from the same skill deficits.”

The conference was held in seminar space donated by the Bank of Canton at its corporate headquarters.

Contributed Photo info: Medfield Middle and High School Adjustment Counselor Russell Becker, left, joined more than 100 of his colleagues from across Norfolk County at the all-day training on effectively dealing with challenging behavior in schools hosted by Norfolk DA Michael W. Morrissey, right

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A Lesson in Resiliency... from a Kindergarten Science Experiment

by Erik Ormberg

My wife and I will be completing our nineteenth year in education this spring. So, when a cool lesson is presented--or a gifted speaker inspires us--the topics oftentimes make their way to our dinner table. Last week my wife shared with me a story about a science project that I thought might resonate with the high school population.

Her kindergarten class planted four plants.
  • Plant 1 was the CONTROL (It got everything...sun, soil, water and plant food)
  • Plant 2 got NO WATER
  • Plant 3 got NO SOIL
  • Plant 4 got NO LIGHT
In the photo above you see plant 4’s (NO LIGHT) leaves and stems peeking out on the side of the box, fighting for sunlight. No WATER and no SOIL never flourished, but no LIGHT fought hard for the one thing it needed. Sunlight.

Once they took the NO LIGHT plant out of the box the students so how it had grown stronger and longer than the CONTROL plant that had everything it needed. The NO LIGHT plant had a better foundation for growth--or a better drive for growth.

This got me thinking about how much we provide our students. How we are often tempted to “clear a path for kids” as opposed to giving them what Malcolm Gladwell calls, “desirable difficulties.”

Do we set out for an “adversity-free” life for kids? Are we better serving students when the adversity teaches us a lesson that better prepares us for larger events later in life?

When students “earn” their way into an upper level course, or a spot on the team or a place on Student Government or National Honor Society there comes an intrinsic sense of worth and accomplishment. Similar to plant 4 these students have to stretch themselves a little further and work a little harder to get to where they want to go.

When I spoke to a student once about an English placement, she told me that her mom could have signed an override into honors, but the student wanted to “work her way” into the class as opposed to “signing her way” into the class. One mother told me, when her son lost eligibility for a sport due to a chemical health violation, “I want my kid to do three things, show remorse, repent and repeat.” One student embraced the challenge of earning her way into a class and one parent understood that discipline can teach. Someone once said, “it’s hard to learn a lesson from a mistake when there isn’t a consequence.”

As graduation looms for our seniors I think about the students who have earned so much of the accolades before them. The student on an IEP who overcame a learning difference. The kid who came to school actively willing to learn--doing what was asked of them minus the support of a parent, tutor or college coach. The child that was socially marginalized throughout high school but took counsel in one trusted adult or leaned on the acceptance of one common peer.

All of these students walk among us here at MHS. Some have managed their adversity with profound courage. Upon graduation most of our students will build on the identity they created here at MHS. Some will also be allowed to recreate that identity once they leave MHS.

Come Monday morning after the All Night Graduation Party I feel as though all our graduates become one again. They are all the same; on equal, yet uncertain, footing. The cliques are forced to change once the diplomas are in hand. All the unique differences that defined them melt away. One final time, as a class, they become whole again as they transition into the role of MHS alumni. Frightening thought for some--refreshing thought for others.

Amazing things can happen when “creative friction” exists or when a mountain appears before us--and we are forced to climb it knowing there is a reward on top. The goal maybe invisible at certain junctures, but crystal clear at other points. It has also been said that we “are much more sure-footed walking uphill than downhill.”

As our seniors shuffle out of MHS and into their newly found landing spaces we hope they bring with them an element of resiliency. We hope that they possess that special trait that allows them to assimilate to an unknown environment where conditions are not always optimal, but those conditions force them to reach further and grow stronger.

A picture of the NO LIGHT plant which grew longer and stronger than the CONTROL plant.