Are you students THRIVING or surviving? Three suggestions to help them Thrive this year…



The furthest distance in your school… it’s NOT what you think. Many students I encounter would more than happily be sent to the principal’s or dean’s office to be called out on a presenting behavior. But quite often, the behavior being presented at school is NOT the real issue. A recent study at John Hopkins University in Baltimore found that almost half of our students in the United States have experienced a trauma and that nearly twenty percent have experienced two or more types of trauma. But the conundrum that we face here is, since may of the perpetrators that exposed the child to the trauma in the first place were by adults; in some cases adults that they trusted. Different types of trauma such as sex abuse, drug addiction, divorce, parental deployment, poverty, homelessness etc… have presented with no regard to race, gender, wealth or any other demographic. So, the challenge we face is this: “How do we get our students into the counseling offices for support and intervention?”. There are a few answers, most of them non-sustainable and come with no guarantee. But really, what is the difference of “thriving” and “surviving”? Thriving comes from a place of abundance where as the notion of just surviving comes from a place of the victim archetype. Survival is a form of diminished vision. I asked my 18 year old niece what her biggest challenge was in graduating from high school was and she said, “being hopeless in a school that doesn’t support young people”. Talk about MY wake up call. Out came the Steve Covey and the Road Less Traveled books.

Here are a few suggestions to take your students from the survival mentality to the THRIVING visionaries they all have the potential to be:

  • 1. After school programs are a great time to address the students in a lower stress milieu. One in which academia is, at times, put on the back burner while special interests and nurturing can take place. Foster kids who dread going home generally find the extra time a reprieve from what one student called “Hell on earth”. The challenge with after the bell activities is generally, funding is based on grants or special projects. There was a time when they were prevalent in the LA region and when the recession started in 2011, many of these havens were cancelled due to lack of funding. ASSETS is a great opportunity to help the students identify and make goals; preparing them for the real world once out of school.
  • 2. Counselors and educators who identify student needs. I have to dob my hat to San Francisco USD!!! Mindfulness. If NOTHING else happens in a school, would it not be awareness that would raise test scores and hope? All too often our kids are buffeted with media, peers, teachers… even standards, to detract them from the essence of their individuality and the unique gift that each student has to offer while here on this planet; being themselves. There is nothing more beautiful, to me, than seeing a group of unedited Pre-K kids interacting and being themselves. Yet, time and years heap on our kids (and US) “norms” and expectations which are in many cases dehumanizing and alienating from their heritage and the essence of their sweet spirits. Experts can see trauma unfold in the actions of the students. But our teachers, often times, are not trained psychologists. Since we can’t have a psychologist in every classroom, perhaps we the teachers can practice mindfulness as well. Noting when a child withdraws socially or begins to bully or fight is a sure way of pulling them aside. But, doing this must present as communication discipline, rather than punishment.
  • 3. Provide modalities for a bridge to intervention. Have you ever noticed the kids who need love and discipline the most ask for it in the worst and most destructive ways? Sure we have PBIS and that is supposed to do the trick for all kids… all the kids who aren’t experiencing trauma, hunger and PTSD at home or on the bus or in your classroom. Research based software can create that triage of trust. When I asked a student recently why she was so honest and open with software she explained, “because I felt it was my only friend”. This was a presenting overweight, bullied young lady with acne. She’d been taunted and tormented and was ashamed to go to staff as she didn’t want to repeat the words she was called. After working with software, which was unbiased, solution oriented and constant, she developed some assertiveness skills and went on to go to a counselor. It may also be yoga, breathing exercises or any number of other unbiased supports.

My hope is that this blog has given someone an idea today. I am happy to say that my niece is now a freshman at Washington State. Perhaps I could even dream so big and hope I’ve inspired someone to share out some hope, as I wish would have happened for my niece. Dropping out is still an option until we give the kids the shift in the paradigm of survival to thriving. When our students thrive, our schools, cities, nation and the world can THRIVE! But it ALL begins with US. It is like that stone we toss into the lake and the ripple effects go on and on and… We are the pebbles! Now let’s go make some WAVES!

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