Friday, October 21, 2016

Terese Jurgensen ~ Director of Student Services/Special Education ~ October 21st, 2016

Social - Emotional Learning
I am super blessed to be a part of the Howard-Winneshiek Community School District for many reasons. One of the top reasons (as I reflect back on the last 3 years) is that I have brought an influx of Social-Emotional Learning strategies, teachings and information to the school staff and grades PK-12. Many educators believe that students are not motivated or that the reason they are not successful in this world, called "school" is because they really don't want to be or that their parents were the same sort of person. For this weekly update, I wanted to share the writing and thoughts of a Social-Emotional educator by the name of Dr. Robert Brookes. I met Dr. Brookes two years ago at a conference on Social Thinking in San Francisco. In this excerp,t Dr. Brookes talks not only of self-esteem, but also on resilience/grit - the very thing we are focusing on here at Howard-Winneshiek Community School District. Here is an excerpt from his October 18th Newsletter:
Dr. Robert Brookes:
In the late 1970s I incorporated the concept of "self-esteem" as a key principle in the strength-based approach I was developing.  Many of my writings and lectures, especially those that pertained to working with or raising children, highlighted this concept.  For example, one of my most requested presentations was titled "Reinforcing Self-Esteem in Children: The Search for Islands of Competence."  One of my first books, which examined the school environment, was The Self-Esteem Teacher.  I advanced the belief that the self-esteem of children was rooted in great part in the quality of their relationships with significant adults in their lives.  I emphasized that the reinforcement of self-esteem was associated with the emergence of such attributes as empathy, caring, responsibility, self-discipline, and the capacity to manage effectively both the successes and setbacks we experience.
A Different View of Self-Esteem:
As I continued to highlight the importance of self-esteem in our daily lives, I learned that some people held a very different interpretation of the meaning of self-esteem and how it should be reinforced in children than I did.  Their perspective, which could be traced to what I considered to be a misinterpretation of the so-called "self-esteem movement," contributed to actions on the part of caregivers that actually served as a barrier to a child developing the qualities associated with self-esteem that I advocated.
Many parents and other caregivers began to subscribe to a view that tied the development of self-esteem to a protect-your-child-at-all-costs mentality-a mentality that unintentionally was predicated on the belief that children are more fragile than we realize, that they are not capable of managing challenges, setbacks, and failures.  This belief found expression as caregivers expended notable time and energy to protect children from experiencing negative situations that as one mother told me "might damage my child's self-esteem for life."   
To keep children from being "damaged," parents created shields to protect a child's self-esteem, shields that assumed different forms but had one thing in common-they were counterproductive.  For example, all children on a team were awarded trophies whether deserved or not; (personally, I have never approved of this practice, to the point, that my children did not take trophies home unless their team won)  parents requested teachers to give their child or adolescent a higher grade even if undeserved; each child's accomplishments were elevated to superstar status; the establishment of limits and having children experience fair and justified consequences for their behaviors took a back seat in some homes to not wanting to hurt their child's psyche. 
In attempting to boost a child's self-esteem, many caring adults engaged in behaviors that in actuality diminished the child's sense of dignity and competence and rendered it more difficult for the child to develop such crucial attributes as responsibility, accountability, and self-discipline.  False praise, false grades, and other falsehoods communicated the message to children that they were not capable of handling challenges and setbacks on their own, that they lacked such resources as advocacy and problem-solving skills.  However, the question that was often forgotten was how were children to learn these skills in the absence of having any experience in dealing with negative outcomes?
Not surprisingly, a backlash ensued against what were interpreted to be the goals of the self-esteem movement.  Reinforcing a child's self-esteem was soon perceived as the root of all that was wrong with child rearing.  Even in the face of this criticism, I continued for a time to focus my writings and presentations on ways in which to reinforce self-esteem, but it became more apparent that others interpreted efforts to protect a child's self-esteem as contributing to the emergence of narcissistic, undisciplined, ungrateful children who lacked the ability to negotiate the typical demands of childhood and adolescence.
In my presentations about "self-esteem" I felt increasingly obligated to spend the first 5-10 minutes acknowledging the negative views that existed about this concept.  I informed the audience in advance that they would learn that my philosophy embraced a view of self-esteem that encouraged children to become more caring, responsible, self-disciplined, and resilient.  I expressed the importance of allowing children to confront challenges as long as adults provided support when indicated-support that enriched rather than diminished a child's emotional growth.
A Shift from Self-Esteem to Resilience :  
Although I have continued to advocate for a strength-based approach, I stopped emphasizing the concept of self-esteem years ago.  There were several reasons for my decision.  What might seem the most obvious was that I grew tired of explaining in my writings and lectures that my use of the concept differed from the ways in which many critics perceived it.  A second and more important catalyst for the change was my increasing interest in the concept of resilience.  I began to understand self-esteem as one component of resilience, as one feature of a "resilient mindset," a concept that my colleague Sam Goldstein and I were to elaborate upon even further in our collaboration.
In placing the spotlight on resilience I expressed the belief that an essential feature of this concept is the ability to bounce back from adversity.  I cautioned that being resilient should not be interpreted to imply that we will not experience mistakes and setbacks.  Rather, resilient individuals when confronted with setbacks and failure display a positive mindset with accompanying skills to manage, learn, and grow from these negative situations. 
As I shifted my emphasis to the concept of resilience and began to apply the tenets of this concept to my clinical interventions and consultations, I discovered that I often neglected to introduce another crucial step in the process of helping others to change the "negative scripts" that pervaded their lives.  I did not prepare them to consider the possible obstacles they might encounter as they attempted to change negative scripts into more positive, constructive behaviors.  Strategies I helped to create with parents and teachers to use with their children and students, or with my adult patients to apply to different features of their lives, or with managers/leaders to incorporate in their interactions with staff, often appeared as if they would have successful results; however, at times, the assumed success was not realized in the so-called "real world."  When hopes and dreams are dashed, they are often replaced by self-doubt, pessimism, accusations, and anger.
I witnessed many examples of how quickly hope could dissolve into despair and anger in the face of failure.  Parents or teachers commented on how they had "gone out of their way" to change their approach with their child or student, but when things did not work out as expected they expressed anger, believing that the child was not willing to assume responsibility for modifying his or her behavior.  One teacher opined, "Against my better judgment I was willing to lessen some class requirements for this student and it still didn't help.  He just doesn't want to change."  I will always remember the comment of a teacher who directed her anger at me for recommending a change in strategies with a student by asserting that "your philosophy leads to spoiled children."  You can imagine my emotions at this statement.
Similarly, parents who restrained themselves from asking their adolescent daughter about her homework felt taken advantage of when they discovered that although she told them she was doing her work, in fact she was not.  One mother blamed   herself when her new script towards her oppositional son was ineffective, noting, "I bet other parents are successful when they make changes.  I feel even more inadequate as a mother now than before I tried a new approach."

Social-Emotional Learning
Big Problem or Small Problem? 

Defining Socially-Based Problems

Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” He had a point! When a problem occurs, many of us just swoop in and start trying to solve it without fully understanding what happened. We may overreact or shut down emotionally, making us unavailable to solve the problem at all. This wastes time and energy and often results in the creation of new or bigger problems.

Defining a social problem may include:

  • Understanding the stated or hidden social rules—what’s expected in any given situation. As long as everyone follows the hidden rules and is doing what’s expected, there is no problem and everyone feels okay.
  • Understanding the reactions of others, especially when our behavior is unexpected
  • Understanding the perspectives and emotions of others.

Conflict can arise when someone has a very different point of view or interpretation of the “rules” in the situation. For instance, we recently worked with a student who became really upset by a teacher’s perspective as he had a very different point of view. While the teacher considered the student’s behavior “unexpected”, the student felt it was fully “expected” based on his point of view. This is why, when working with our students with social learning challenges, it’s so important to spend time first defining the actual problem from multiple people’s perspectives. That way all people recognize what the actual socially-based problem is! (Ross Greene, creator of the Collaborative & Proactive Solutions model, addresses this topic in detail. Learn more Also taken from

At Howard-Winneshiek CSD - we have incorporated teaching problem solving strategies, PK-12th grade. Students, I fear through the use of technology over the years, have learned not how to solve problems, but how to find the "answers." I vividly remember in the late 80's as a missionary reading a book called, "The dumbing of America." The book outlined how students in the future would not know how to problem solve but only how to seek out answers to low-level questioning. I can say, without reservation, that I have lived to see this not only in the world of education, but also in the lives of my children. At Howard-Winneshiek through Social - Emotional learning strategies, we are teaching our students how to solve problems. 


October is Bully Prevention Month
A Girl Like Her

Our TLC initiative has focused on culture-climate district-wide. Unfortunately, bullying/harassment is a reality in our culture. It has been exasperated through social media, texting, and a removal of feelings/empathy from our society today. At Howard-Winneshiek, we are not denying the reality of this issue today. Instead, we face it head on and are working hard to create a culture/climate that not only supports student achievement but supports our students Social-Emotional Growth. As parents and community, thank you for all you do to support our students' Social - Emotional growth. 

Have a great week! If you would like to reach me, Terese Jurgensen, please do! Go CADETS!!!! 


(563) 929-6344

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