This month’s post is written by Abby White. Abby is a Para-Professional at Chaddock’s Special Education School and has worked there since August, 2017. Abby grew up outside of St. Louis, Missouri and has a BA degree in Arts Management from Culver- Stockton College. Abby has recently been accepted to Western Illinois School of Graduate Studies to obtain her Masters degree and complete an alternative path to teacher licensure. Abby currently lives in Pittsfield, Illinois with her husband and two dachshunds. Abby and her husband enjoy playing a variety of board games together and with friends.
I feel that Chaddock School is unique because of the important work we do with both our residential kids and with public school districts. The work is family focused and involves the entire community. As an educator that work is part of what motivates me.
Over the last six years my role has given me the opportunity to get to know our students. Many of them say that they feel given up on and don’t see the point of going to school because it’s just another chance to fail and for people to give up on them again. I have found that rebuilding trust and confidence within the classroom through open communication is the foundation of a relationship with them.
One of my responsibilities is to track how each student is doing behaviorally. The students learn that all they have to do is ask to see their behavior sheets. This gives us a chance to discuss what they are feeling and guide them to be more successful. We take time to celebrate victories regardless of how small. This process shows our students that we are on their side and want to see them succeed – it shows them that we are not going to be give up on them.
The students we work with have experienced trauma that makes clear communication especially important. I do my best to inform them of any communication made to their families. This communication isn’t just about the negative things they do, but also the positive. This gives our students the chance to take accountability and to be proud of their progress. It also allows their families a chance to celebrate progress with them as well.
When a student is struggling clear communication also offers another chance to check in and have their voice heard. Often, it builds a bridge between student, staff and family. Once that bridge to communication is open it’s amazing to watch their growth. The students build confidence, their families experience more positive interactions and we get to watch our students begin to grow and thrive.
Every day I try to model appropriate behavior – I live and demonstrate my strong family values and talk about my life with my students. I remind them that they can talk to their support team and I help them build a healthy relationship with that team. That relationship enables them to continue growing after they leave Chaddock.
Hope is a powerful motivator. It brings students to our school. It makes us work harder to give them what they need to heal. It gives parents the strength to commit their child to our care. Hope, healing, grace and faith make every bit of what I do important to me.
One of the unique things about our approach at Chaddock is our treatment model. Laid out like a pyramid, this model is designed to allow us to meet our children where they are at; back, mid or front brain. Many of our children (and their families) come to us in back brain: they are in survival mode. We know that clear communication, in the form of high-level processing, problem-solving and reasoning, cannot happen when we are in back brain. Therefore, we know that we need to use a different type of communication, one which focuses on body language, tone, proximity and awareness of needs. However, both types of communication must convey the same message: “I am here for you, unconditionally, no matter what”. When we communicate this message it allows our children and families to begin the process of healing and instills hope that might otherwise be missing.