Sunday, February 25, 2024

VGS educators train to aide students better with problems outside the classroom

By Jessica Wettig

The faculty and staff at VGS held the first in-house teacher training for Southern Illinois Resiliency Cohort on Monday, Aug. 13. The program is affiliated with the Illinois Education Association (IEA), Adverse Children’s Experiences (ACEs), and other organizations.

Superintendent Greg Frehner said the educators are just beginning to learn about this program. They had a three-day class over the summer at John A. Logan College.

The program seeks to identify problems with students, and connect with them better. Educators are trained to identify stressors and issues, and offer new solutions in order for a student to function better in life as well as in the classroom.

Frehner said he thinks the educators at VGS do a great job at getting to know their students. This training seeks to make them do even better.

Students’ academic lives are more demanding than ever before, he said, and everyone has stressors.

“We’re just trying to knock down those doors,” Frehner said.

If a student is struggling in the classroom, there is probably a reason behind it. There are a variety of possible issues. Teachers may be tempted to give them more work to do. But, what else should you do?

Empathy plays a large role, and figuring out how to differentiate learning from other aspects that need to be addressed. Educators might establish morning check-ins with students if the student needs to talk.

Students are being asked to do more critical thinking with the current curriculum, and it just makes things more challenging.

“We’re just trying to fill our toolbox with more tools,” Frehner said.

VHS and VGS Social Worker Edna Bundren said she is excited about this upcoming school year.

She said it involves how children respond the way they do to experiences, and helps to identify the link between trauma and education.

“All children have strengths and different ways of thinking,” she said.

As a social worker, she said her job is expanding. She said she already communicates well with the teachers, and her job will consist of bringing more information to them.

VHS Retired Superintendent Marleis Trover gave a presentation on collaboration and teamwork.

Trover worked with Mary Jane Morris, Director of Teaching and Learning at IEA, to bring the Resiliency program to Southern Illinois.

Trover has given presentations all over the country, and even in China, on these topics. She said the programs started in South Chicago, and she and Morris brought them down to Southern Illinois.

VGS is one of 17 schools implementing this program into their school.

Morris taught at VHS for seven years before working for IEA. She said she is very passionate about this program.

“As our world is changing, so are our families,” she said.

More violence, drugs, abuse and other traumas are happening in children’s lives than before, she said. All of these traumas have an impact on the students.

The goal is to educate anyone who comes in contact with a student, whether it’s a teacher or even a janitor, how to better help a child through their daily lives.

The fight or flight response the students have at home doesn’t turn off when they come to school. Students might be more aggressive, or withdrawn. Recognizing these signs and helping students through it is the ultimate goal.

Morris said there are a variety of studies that say students with traumas have higher chances of learning disorders and health disorders, from alcoholism to asthma.

VHS will be hosting another workshop on Oct. 5 for educators in the school district.