Sunday, 26 February 2017

Speed Bumps

It's going to take some time to get this right, to work out how these guys operate and how we fit together.The first of many speed bumps has come along as I've tried to build a team or community within these lads. As I spoke about helping each other make sensible choices and guide one another through the day, the boys took this as an opportunity to nark, tell tales and generally be mean about one another - fail one.

Week 4 and the new angle I'm taking is to simply manage ones own behaviour first and foremost, in an attempt to build role models that the less mature boys can model themselves on. After 5 days of this approach I've seen drastic changes in how the boys deal with conflict and niggles within the classroom. There's still a lot of pointing out of others behaviour and niggling at one another, but the big things are discussed as a class and don't lead to even bigger issues and the smaller ones are being ignored and therefore aren't being fuelled in to full on flames. So overall, the boys are more settled and our days are happier.

During our recent writing test (where the boys could only stay quiet and still for 10mins) I noticed that 6 out of the 12 gents were left handed.  Basic Googling tells me that left handedness in males can be linked with developmental delay. Certainly an area of research I'm going to be interested in  - to be continued.......

As we've just been through "testing week", I've made sure to make time for physical and creative endeavours to balance the sitting still. The most successful activity was creating stop motion animation using everyday toys. I set no rules around what they could animate or where they needed to be situated within the class. The boys took complete charge of themselves and their task and were able to quietly and thoughtfully make some cute animations - we even exported them to iMovie and added sound effects before using html to embed them on their blogs.
Even though these guys struggled to write complete sentences and sit still for even 10mins during a writing test - they were all successful in tackling new learning around animating. Where does this put them on National Standards?

What have I learnt in one month

  • Positive talk is Powerful
  • My boys hate being made to sit still 
  • Strong routines work
  • My boys are gorgeous and will do anything for a bowl of ice-cream!

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Introducing The Delightful Dozen

A wonderful "side effect" of the Manaiakalani MDTA program is that for 2017 I get the wonderous opportunity to try something new, something special, something just a little different. I mulled over what this may be during the latter half of 2016.

Each year at Pt England I am blessed with a class of gorgeous talent, gorgeous hearts and gorgeous mischief. A pattern has developed where I have been somewhat drawn to the mischief version. Those kids who need a little something extra each day. A little something to set them straight, keep them smiling or help them be a member of a busy classroom. I have enjoyed the challenge of learning what every one of these treasures needs to succeed.

So for 2017 I am embarking on a class of gorgeous talent, gorgeous heart and gorgeous mischief with 12 small boys who may just need that little something extra.

So far we've had three days together and each day I tackle with a very flexible plan. We're jumping on on learning as it presents itself as well as using each moment to discuss core values and key competencies.

I do hope that by building community within the boys, they develop a great sense of belonging and trust in each other and their school. This sense of stability, trust and love will allow the boys to access learning that has otherwise evaded them and get them on an accelerated pathway to future success.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Trauma and Cognitive Development

Approximately 300,000 children in New Zealand are classified as living in poverty. This is defined by a household income that is less than 60% of the median household income. (NZ Children’s Commissioner 2015) These children have increased health risks, lower academic achievement and are more likely to suffer from childhood trauma. (Wilkinson, B., & Jeram. J 2016)

Trauma is defined as an overwhelming and unregulated emotional response to a negative experience. The effects of trauma can be immediate or in younger children, manifest in delayed responses triggered by like experienced in older childhood. (Bainbridge and Lasley 2002, Beecher, M., & Sweeny, S. M. 2008, Garrett 2014, NZ Children’s Commissioner 2012, Tough 2016, Sitler 2009 ).

Traumas, which are more prevalent in the lower socioeconomic households, (Children’s Commissioner’s 2012) are recognised as the greatest stressor for cognitive development in children which contribute to lower academic achievement levels in formal schooling. These traumas include, parental separation, emotional and physical neglect or abuse, violence, and substance dependency. (Garrett 2014)

The constructivist theory developed by Piaget, generalises that a child constructs their own knowledge through experience, observation and experimentation. Through assimilation and accommodation children develop their understanding of the world. (Siegler 2003) If responses differ from expected, children can become maladapted to certain environmental factors, their equilibration of understanding is thrown off.

Neglect or abuse can cause disequilibration. If a child is not responded to as expected, then their
understanding of that stimuli is altered.

A child who grows up in a violent or neglectful household learns that the adult in their live is unavailable or dangerous. (Williams 2006) The cognitive development of the child is compromised, socially and emotionally. To maintain a level of attachment to the abusive caregiver, relationship schema in the child are permanently altered. (Saakvitne 2000)

These maladaptations cause great stress to the child. Memories of traumatic events are processed or altered, offering false perceptions to the individual. These perceptions are then revisited when faced with emotional triggers.

Essentially, humans are all born within a similar range of intelligence, however childhood experiences within the formative years, will impact upon that child’s ability to learn. (Bainbridge and Lasley 2002)

Trauma experienced as an infant is often experienced implicitly. The child has feelings around the trauma but no concrete event to hold it to. This leads to emotional responses to events without knowing why. The child has no words to explain or describe their reaction and feelings. (Kaplow 2006) This makes understanding the reasons for triggers and preventing excessive reactions, extremely difficult.

For a child trying to learn in a traditional school setting, trauma can greatly influence their ability to remember, process and think critically. A child overwhelmed by unknown feelings, or anxiety does not have the cognitive space to focus on learning new concepts or to process and transfer new ideas. They are often much slower at attending to and adapting learning, which increases stress levels and makes school an even more unpleasant place to be. (Tough 2016, Sitler 2009)

Many research studies indicate that childhood trauma compromises safety, diminishes the sense of belonging, and has a negative impact on cognitive development and the ongoing cognitive abilities of children. (Enlow 2012; Majer 2010; Willis 2015; Streeck‐Fischer & Kolk 2000)