It’s back to school in Colorado, and that means a chance to make sure all children have access to positive childhood experiences that will help them grow into resilient and healthy adults. We can do this by encouraging all educators to take the Healthy Outcomes from Positive Experiences (HOPE) training, which provides helpful information on how to build connections and a sense of belonging for students in the classroom.
Recently, we had the chance to talk with Senior Education Program Manager Missy Berglund about how HOPE can be used in the classroom and why everyone who works with children should take the training.
Fostering a sense of belonging leads to long-term well-being for children.
Teachers have the power to create a sense of “I matter” in students, simply by the way they structure their classroom community. Even for kids as young as preschool or kindergarten, having assigned roles and jobs like being the door holder or line leader help children to feel important and needed by those around them. When kids feel like they belong in their environment and are connected to their community, kids stay engaged in the activities that lead to academic success and long-term well-being.
Any type of educator can be a meaningful connection for a child.
For a child to develop into a healthy, resilient adult, it is important for them to have at least two adults who are invested in their lives who are not their parents. That means that anyone who works with children can practice HOPE, not just classroom teachers. When teachers are focused on academic content, other adults in the classroom can create meaningful, long-lasting relationships with the students that will benefit them as they grow and develop.
HOPE has a place in the classroom at all ages.
Not only are there ways to center HOPE in the classroom at all ages, it is critical that a sense of connection and belonging are maintained throughout the school years.
In elementary school, when students make connections with adults who see them for who they are, they are more likely to stay engaged in activities that will promote long-term well-being.
In middle school, a time of turbulent transition for many kids, it is important that students have spaces where they can share emotions in a healthy way. None of us were born knowing how to do this, however, so it’s up to adults to model healthy relationships so kids can practice engaging in the same way with their peers.
In high school, it is critical for youth to feel connected to their friends. This is when what kids learn from adults about healthy relationships in middle school becomes essential. When youth know how to engage in healthy and lasting relationships, friendships can solidify in a positive way.
“It’s just as important to feel like you belong at 6 as it is at 14.”
– Missy Berglund, Senior Education Program Manager
HOPE builds safe and equitable environments where students can thrive.
Creating schools that are safe, equitable, stable environments for children to learn and play is essential if we are to support kids in developing into healthy, resilient adults. To build these environments, we need to develop an awareness among educators that all students have different needs that they need met in order to succeed academically.
Biased decision making around discipline is a major barrier to creating safe, equitable, and stable school environments. During the 2017-2018 school year, K-12 schools suspended 7.8% of Black students and 8.5% of students with disabilities, compared to 3.8% and 4.0% of White students and students without disabilities, respectively.¹ When schools are safe, equitable, and stable environments, we see a reduction in such disparities in discipline.
Biased decision making around discipline can be the result from a lack of full connection between students and adults. When kids are in meaningful relationships with adults and their peers at school, the adults are better able to advocate for student needs, and children are emotionally regulated because they have someone to process emotions with. We all need another person to co-regulate with. When children have adults they can work through emotions with, discipline is less reactive.
Additionally, when students feel a sense of belonging and like their community is counting on them, they are more likely to have the support they need to be emotionally regulated and able to fully engage in learning. Therefore, when adults build meaningful relationships with students, they can minimize behavior disruptions in their classrooms.
Environment matters; this is why it’s important for all educators to take the HOPE training so they can consciously create HOPE-focused spaces.
Teaching has been difficult for educators the past few years. HOPE provides renewed excitement.
We all know that it hasn’t been easy for those who work in education throughout the pandemic. Missy has seen a renewed passion from educators in her trainings who are excited to build HOPE-ful connections with their students this year. Through HOPE, educators can rediscover that teaching isn’t just about academics and that they are playing a critical role in the lives and long-term well-being of their students.
Register for the Training Today
- Ryberg, R. Her, S., Temkin, D., Harper, K. (2021). Despite reductions since 2011-12, black students and students with disabilities remain more likely to experience suspension. Child Trends. Available at https://cms.childtrends.org/publications/despite-reductions-black-students-and-students-with-disabilities-remain-more-likely-to-experience-suspension
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