We ended the final day of Re-ED training exploring the world of Meaningful Collaboration. One of the 12 Re-ED principles states, "Communities are important for children and youth, but the uses and benefits of community must be experienced to be learned." So, not only is the group essential to learning, but the larger community itself plays a role.
We looked at bringing parents, caregivers, community organizations, primary service providers, state and local agencies, and other professionals in our buildings to the table to provide support for our students beyond school walls and to help students and families interact with and become familiar with community opportunities for engagement and support. Here we spent some time discussing the communication pitfalls these types of teams might encounter. General guidelines for forming and maintaining these types of teams include a strength based focus (building on student strengths), proactive and comprehensive interventions, use of “natural supports” (the community supports that already are in place), partnerships between families and direct service providers, and goals that aim to create meaningful life-long outcomes. For our students who might struggle to see a place for themselves in a supportive community environment, it is our job to help them create that vision, while we support their development.
At the beginning of the training when we looked at the statistics describing students classified with emotional and behavioral disorders, I think it was difficult for participants and trainers to avoid seeing a mythical culture of poverty that produces our students with their various complicated lives. Many are marginalized by social and institutional structures that have been historically oppressive. That said, when we build stories for ourselves about our students and their difficult experiences, we risk blinding ourselves to those “natural supports” that students and families already rely on. We also begin to blame parents and particular communities for our student’s challenges, while averting our eyes from the social, structural, and institutional inequities that fall disproportionally on the shoulders some students.
The principles of Re-ED include; all kids need joy in their lives, being part of a group is important, self-control can be learned, trust between children an adults is essential to learning, relationships play a key role in education and in life, life is to be lived now, competence (being able to do something well) makes a difference, time is an ally, feelings should be nurtured, cognitive competence can be taught, the body is the armature of the self, ceremony and ritual give order, stability, and confidence, and the community is important.