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I've been an educator since 1995 where I've served as both a teacher and administrator. I believe that serving others is the key to success and make it my goal to be a servant leader for students, teachers, parents, and the community. 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Mental Health First Aid

Today, I had the privilege of attending Youth Mental Health First Aid USA training (www.MentalHealthFirstAid.org).  I highly recommend it for those who work with children and adolescents who may suffer from mental health issues. According the manual, this consists of roughly 22% of youth within any given year.  The Maryland Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene, et al (2012) states that mental health first aid is not designed to take the place of professional help, but instead "to help people recognize symptoms of mental health problems, how to offer and provide initial help, and how to guide a person toward appropriate treatments and other supportive help." As one who works with young people every day, this was an excellent refresher and reminder of the importance of knowing the signs of potential mental health problems as well as how to support affected youth.

The key action steps for applying mental first aid are outlined in the acronym ALGEE:

Assess for risk of suicide or harm (If necessary, ask questions such as "Are you thinking of harming yourself?" or "Are you considering suicide?")
Listen nonjudgementally.  (Be quiet, choose a listening posture, ask clarifying questions, respect culture)
Give reassurance and information. (Provide emotional support, empathize, offer practical help with tasks that may seem overwhelming)
Encourage appropriate professional help. (Doctor, licensed counselor, psychologist, etc.)
Encourage self-help and other support strategies. (School counselor, family, social support networks, etc.)

These action steps are not in any particular order and may not all be necessary, depending on the situation.

One of my main takeaways from the training is to remind myself to slow down enough to notice when a child is behaving differently than normal.  When I see a potential issue, use ALGEE to assess the situation and, if necessary, assist the child in getting the help they need.

         Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Missouri Department of Mental Health, and National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare (2012). Youth Mental Health First Aid USA for Adults Assisting Young People.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Be Quiet and Listen

Today, our staff worked diligently on updating the Campus Improvement Plan.  They took the original plan, reviewed and discussed each page, and then made changes, additions, and deletions as needed.  These highlighted changes were then submitted electronically to be reviewed by the Campus Action Team as we update the CIP. 

My role during this time was to visit and observe each group and answer questions if they had them.  While I was with the groups, I usually ended up standing in the back and just listening to the conversation.  It was interesting to see how each group's dynamics were different.  For example, the math teachers were very straighrforward in their approach.  They had the CIP up on the screen and were going through each step one at a time, making changes as they went.  English/Language Arts, on the other hand, spent quite a bit of time discussing and debating the merits of each suggested change and skipped around occasionally.  They would also go off on rabbit trails and have to be brought back in by facilitator.  Specials teachers spent their time focusing on how to impact academic writing and vocabulary through their programs as well as campus wide. 

As I listened to the conversations, what I really wanted to do was interject my own thoughts and ideas.  I had to bite my tongue several times just to keep quiet.  Had I spoken, my comments might have stopped the flow of ideas rather than added to them and ultimately defeated the purpose of the activity.  As an administrator, I am having to learn that I don't always need to be part of the conversation.  I can just be a listener and add my input later.

At the end of the day, each group shared the highlights of their proposed changes to the plan.  It was eye-opening to hear both the ideas for improvement and instructuional needs that these teachers had developed to help increase student achievement.  Many were ideas that I would never have even considered.  As I reflected on the day, I realized that I often feel a need to control the conversation and interject my own ideas.  Sometimes that is necessary, but in situations like today, I just need to be quiet and listen. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Why edcamp?

Last weekend, I was privileged to attend EdcampNOV8.  All week, I've been trying to write about the experience, but drawing a blank.  This was my second edcamp. I'd covered the basics in my post about the first experience (First, but not last, edcamp)  Fortunately, I took along two colleagues and without realizing it, they came to my rescue.  Without provocation, both sent e-mails to our staff describing their thoughts on the edcamp.  I couldn't have said it better myself.

From Sheryl Quarles (@squarles54)

Story Staff,
We had a great time at EdCampNov8 this past weekend in Roanoke (Texas, not Virginia.:)  It was such an awesome opportunity to learn what other educators are doing in their classroom, particularly in the area of technology.  I personally found it very timely, considering the fact we are implementing iPads next year.  And, they gave out a lot of freebies and cool prizes.
It was also a great time to hang out with teachers from our own campus.  The longer I work in this field, the more I realize how important relationship building is among the staff AND with our students. 
Hope you have an awesome week!  Keep your eyes open for the next EdCamp opportunity. 
Sheryl Quarles

From Ashley Barton (@ashleyhbarton)
I completely agree!  EdCamp is awesome!  I really enjoyed the informal but very helpful sessions.  It was a great break from the lecture type PD and a relief from the negativity we too often hear.  Everyone is positive and ready to learn and/or share.
I learned more about how we can utilize the iPads next year and steps we should be taking (and not taking). 
If you want to know more about what EdCamp is like, just come see one of us.  I highly recommend attending one if you are able.  J

Thanks, Mrs. Barton and Mrs. Quarles, for an awesome edcamp.  Let's keep the ball rolling.