My blog post on October 27, 2022, began with students saying. Embedded within the post was an article with data collected from middle and high school students. The data in the paper presented the biggest barriers to student learning, according to a new report released by YouthTruth, a nonprofit that surveys K-12 students and families for school districts.
Anxiety, depression, and stress were indicated, along with students identifying they did not have enough support at school by finding enough adult support. School counselors, Social Workers, School Psychologists, and other Mental Health providers are in need, but there is a shortage. There are not enough qualified individuals to fill positions, nor do schools have the available funding to support all of the additional needs.
Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 24th, 2022, had an active shooter. A teen and an adult were killed in the shooting. With the fast-acting security team at the school, all doors being locked, following the safety drill protocols for active shooters, and the fast response of the police department, the shooter was taken down within minutes of the 911 call. All of this saved lives.
While investigating why this school is a target for violence and why the shooter with no background in violence would commit such an act, mental health is brought up. In every case of active shooters, mental health is brought up as an indication of triggers for these incidents. However, the first thing politicians, media, and others do is focus on the weapons used in the horrific violence.
I intend to bring a spotlight on targeting the core of the issue long before (years), before the few days before they have a breakdown and decide to do such an awful thing to the lives of innocent individuals. Those few minutes in the lives of all who survived will be with them for a lifetime. To all of the families who lost loved ones, the scars of the day are so deep. All of these add additional needs for mental health support for the trauma experienced from extreme events, which mental health may have been able to prevent.
In July of 2022, I wrote another blog post about safety and feeling good. These are the foundation of my Two Rule Philosophy for school. In having a Two Rule school, the purpose is to meet the needs we all value; Safety and Feeling Good. If you look at all of the rules you currently have, the basic foundation of each one is grounded in one or both of those simple Two Rules. However, they are not simple at all once we dig deeper into how we apply, model, explain, support, and teach all that goes along with them.
We will continue to see violence, anger, and issues with our youth and young adults until we address the issues at the core of the problem. Mental Health is a significant need. It is my professional opinion implementation of Two Rules in all schools will begin to develop the habits, skills, and knowledge needed to form a solid foundation for success not only in academics but in their life journey. In addition, we are advocating for funding to increase mental health support. We need to help more individuals who want to go into the mental health and education.
My final thought to share is this, as my editor is currently working on finalizing my book with me, it was important to me to have the book contain pages leaders can take to implement so it will have those. In addition, a collaboration of teams is significant for me as well, so this is included. When I say teams, I want to clarify what this means. Education is not something we do to children; it is something we do with children. Children, families, schools, and the community are part of the teams. Children will lead the conferences about what they are learning, what strengths they have, what they need help with, and how they would like us to all support them. Communication openly together. Nothing changes until we change our approaches together in partnerships. It really does take a village!
Over the past few years, our world has experienced uncertainty. We have been through a global pandemic leading us into a world of the unknown and many assumptions.
How can we turn our homes, workplaces, and communities from assumptions to assurances? What will it take for us to lead out of the crisis we continue to feel?
When we make an assumption it is defined as: a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof. I tested this out with my middle school students one year when talking about making assumptions about others before getting to know them. Here was the example:
Each of the rooms had special speakers assigned to them. Students would rotate to each of the rooms. Once they arrived, they would get settled and the speaker would join the room. Students were then asked to answer questions about the speaker based on just how they looked.
“So what do you think I am good at?”
Students all began to raise their hands and each one said, Basketball.
“Oh, you think because I am 6’5 and black I can play basketball.”
Yes, all of the students shouted.
“Wrong, I have never played basketball very well. It was not my thing. I actually am a drummer.”
When we make assumptions based on surface level evidence and not hard evidence, we are making bad decisions. In order to make good decisions we need to base it on factual evidence. Once you have evidence then you can make a factual statement based on the information you have.
“Let me provide you with the evidence you need to base your decision.”
During the past few years we have experienced traumatic events and a need to feel safe. When we have episodes like this, many times a great deal of assumptions begin to appear. People begin to feel uneasy, unsure and do not feel trust. It is when they need to hear assurances from leadership; a positive declaration intended to give confidence; a promise. It is the time when leaders need to listen to what is not said.
“Trusted servant leaders are the answer to today’s challenges.”(pg.136)-Simple Truths of Leadership by Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley. Building trust in your environment is a skill you work to build or it can quickly begin to erode. There are four ABCD model steps created to take and follow:
These come from the book Trust Works! Ken Blanchard, Cynthia Olmsted, and Martha Lawrence. It is also in Simple Truths of Leadership by Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley, page 77
Leaders need a plan! Every aspect of what is done needs to be done with an intentional plan. It is consistency, intentional and purposeful! The best way to begin with assurances is to be authentic and realistic in what those will be.
Have you been listening to the political ads? These are not examples of assurances individuals who you lead want to hear from you. Those are campaign talking points to gain votes. People working with you want to know with confidence what will happen, be provided, and is authentic. Please do not say it, promise it or forget to do whatever you have assured them you will do for them. Please make sure it is authentic.
The “I will” assurances can be what you want them to be. Maybe you sent an end of the year survey and you have data to be able to reflect from the survey. The leader you are is reflected in the assurances you provide, the words you speak, the actions you take and in what you do each day. Leaders are watched more than others. Walk that walk, talk the talk and keep the promises you make! This will provide all with the data they need to determine the assurances you have provided are not assumptions, but facts they can trust.