Social and Behavior

Our milieu supports our students.

Within the school, we structure the environment carefully to help student increase competence in their social, emotional and academic abilities. A common issue for many of our students is a struggle with their self-esteem and therefore resistance to trying new things due to a fear of failure. We have incorporated Dr. Robert Brooks’ philosophy on the importance of building self-esteem in an ongoing way with our students.
 
All staff are trained to notice and acknowledge student successes.  For a student who is afraid to take risks, any small step is important in building a path to success, and we work to reinforce these with genuine and specific verbal praise, as well as programmatic positive reinforcers, such as Student of the Week and honor roll programs.
 
We believe strongly in the power of building positive relationships between students and staff as a means to assist students’ growth. Staff work diligently to be truthful, respectful and fair with our students. We also engage them as individuals to learn more about their strengths and interests. Our goal is to have a personal rapport with our students, which can be helpful when they are feeling vulnerable and in crisis. 
 
Research on resilience highlights the importance of a positive relationship with an adult (teacher, counselor, youth worker, secretary, family friend) with whom they can bond and who helps them develop a sense of hope for their future. Although we cannot predict whether students will develop such bonds with our staff, it is important that we keep in mind that it could be any one of us.

We teach students the language of emotion.

Many students have trouble recognizing their feelings or they may not have the vocabulary to identify them accurately. It is our job to help teach them the language of emotions and how to identify the feelings they may have at certain moments. We educate students about how moods, thoughts, and feelings effect their actions and decision-making. Often students react quickly and impulsively, and are not aware of why they act as they do. Higher awareness of their feelings and emotions leads to increased abilities to manage these feelings and emotions.

We try to understand what might be leading to difficult behavior.

Student feelings and emotions can stem from a wide variety of triggers.  In dealing with students in moments of crisis, it can sometimes be easy for staff to forget the obstacles the students may be facing at that given moment. Did they just have an argument with a friend? Did they lose something? Is a family member ill? The students may not even realize that certain events are playing a role in their behavior. Through calm and patient interactions, we can remind students of their successes and then challenge them to figure out the cause-and-effect patterns of their behavior. We can also go a step further by fostering discussions around taking other people’s perspectives.  Why did another student yell at you for no reason?  What could have been going on for a staff when they gave a student a consequence? Without going into personal details, students can start to brainstorm various cause-and-effect patterns or stressors that may be impacting others, recognize how their own actions may affect others, and ultimately act in a more understanding manner.

We help students take responsibility for their actions.

When students earn consequences, they are expected to process their behavior with staff. We try to help them understand their behaviors and the effect they may have had on themselves and others. We support them in peaceful conflict resolutions and give them the tools they need to apologize and move on.

The goal of our Behavior Support Program is to teach students how to alter their behavior in order to achieve higher levels of success. We also want our students to become resilient – to bounce back from hardships or failure – so that they can continue their success when they move on from our program. Young people develop resilience through the experience of mastering skills they have not yet learned. By adhering to all of the above ideals, we are attempting to give students the skills they need to change their negative behavior patterns and adapt more pro-social behaviors. Our Behavior Support Program challenges our staff to keep a students’ resilience in mind at all times and act accordingly.

Communicating within the community is the key to success.

Communication among the teachers, therapists, milieu counselors, administrators, families, and outside workers is key to the students’ success. A student’s behavior in the classroom could be connected to information known by a therapist or a milieu counselor and insights from a classroom teacher could help foster meaningful interactions with therapists and milieu counselors. Additionally, our school staff tries to establish positive connections between school and home so that we can fully understand our students’ needs and support their progress.