Wow! Ed: Newsletter from the Center for Educational Improvment
What the World Needs Now
August 2015
In This Issue

Morningside Center

National Urban Alliance

Operation Respect

Check the links above for ideas for curriculum
and teaching with heart.
CEI offers workshops, technical assistance, and research
on Heart Centered Education.
Editor:  Lauren Hamilton

2015 Center for EducationalImprovement

Dear Educators,

I recently observed as a good friend of mine, an Ethiopian, was sitting and talking for a few minutes with a group of predominately young, white children. His eyes twinkled and he said to the children, "You are loved. You are loved. And you are so beautiful and handsome and you are loved." The children hung on his words. Love. Our need to be loved runs deep. And these words came to them from a stranger; however, they came straight from his heart.

Love is the foundation, the cornerstone, for so much. 

Where is love in your school? Your plans for 2015-2016?Your welcome to new teachers and staff , returning teachers and staff, and your welcome to children and families?
Oh to be so Beautiful
Christine Mason, CEI Executive Director 

Many, perhaps most, of us have collected holes. Over the years they have accumulated. Some we may have intentionally purchased. However, most of them have appeared almost seemingly spontaneously. It is not like we wished for the holes. Now if we are talking about Quasars and Quarks and the Universe, holes can be a good thing. They seem to keep things in balance; they are part of a system.


However, how many holes do we need? It is not like we wake up in the morning, pat our bodies, and say with delight, "oh good, I have another hole."It isn't like we have gone to Amazon or Google and searched for the best "holes" at the best prices. It isn't something where we can't wait to show our latest holes to our friends.  In fact, sometimes, at some point, we may start to try to hide our holes.


It is not a "status" thing. It certainly isn't part of some friendly competition -- not like we go on scavenger hunts to find holes. And it certainly is not like we are looking for the next, biggest, most carefully constructed, the most artful, hole. It is not as if we labored in science labs, searching first for the most magic formula and then sought the most protective patent. It isn't really about teaching kids to make holes or teaching teachers to assure that kids have a sufficient "hole" proficiency score.  And there are not entrepreneurs clamoring to build a "hole" industry or to capture hole dividends. However, after we get them, we may search for years and years and years for ways to unload them, to shrink them, to tear them apart, and then of course, to fill the void. 


You are so beautiful and so loved.

Domestic Violence and Children: How Heart Centered Learning Can Help
By Joshua Hassell, CEI Intern

Perhaps one of the most sobering notions is that domestic violence, spousal and parental abuse, and other traumatizing and triggering phenomena remain a large part of the United States education system. According to New York nonprofit organization Safe Horizon, more than 3 million children witness domestic violence, in their homes every single year. Futures Without Violence reports that 15.5 million children live in a home where intimate partner violence has occurred once in the past year, and 7 million children live in homes with severe partner violence. No child deserves to be affected by domestic violence, and a single reported case is one too many. When asking questions about domestic violence, most ask "How can I help?" and not "Why is this important?" While there has been

As non-profit organization
Zero-to-Three states, "young children are amazingly resilient and have a great capacity for recovery [from the effects of domestic violence]... If we can intervene early we can strengthen their resilience... [Through the use of factors such as positive teacher-student relationships], high-quality education, stable caregivers, and a nurturing, stimulating environment". While Zero-to-Three focuses mainly on infants and toddlers, these findings hold true for all affected children and mirror the  National Child Traumatic Stress Network's advice for aide provided in, "a context of comprehensive support for the child".  a sizeable quantity of research on how psychotherapy helps children affected by domestic violence, educators themselves can be part of the solution through the use of the Center for Educational Improvement's (CEI) "Four C's."

Effects of Domestic Violence on Children. Like many other psychological phenomena domestic violence has a myriad of different effects depending on the affected individual's age. For school age children ages 6-11, domestic violence can impact a number of key developmental attributes including:
  • Increased emotional awareness of self and others: More awareness of own reactions to violence at home, and of reaction on others (e.g. concern about mother's safety)
  • Increased complexity in thinking about right and wrong; emphasis on fairness and intent: More susceptible to adapting rationalizations heard to justify violence
  • Academic and social success at school has primary impact on self-concept: Ability to learn may be decreased due to impact of violence (and possible distraction); may miss positive statements or selectively
  • Increased same sex identification: May learn gender roles associated with intimate partner abuse (e.g. men as abusers, women as victims, etc.)

Older children from homes with episodes of domestic violence, often have difficulty establishing healthy relationships with both peers and possible romantic interests, may have poorly developed family skills (especially related to communication and respect), and may be more prone to using maladaptive coping mechanisms such as drugs or alcohol (National Education Association, 2012). However, domestic violence does not only affect children exposed to it in their households- it also has a noticeable effect on their peer
s as well.
  • A 2008 study by Scott E. Carell and Mark L. Hoekstra determined that, "[one student troubled through domestic violence] in a class of 20 students reduces student test scores by 0.67 percentile points and increases the number of student disciplinary infractions committed by students by 16 percent" which demonstrates that students affected negatively by domestic violence unwittingly spread these negative effects to their peers (Carell and Hoekstra, 2008).
  • The same study finds that using the estimate of 15 percent of total student population as a model, "the total per-student external marginal damage [or damage caused to students not exposed to domestic violence] is a 2 percent decrease in test scores and a 48 percent increase in disciplinary infractions" (Carell and Hoekstra, 2008).

How Heart Centered Education Can Help.
While the above impacts are difficult to reduce and assuage, educators can assist in reducing the external effect of domestic violence and assist students affected by it first-hand. Educators can use heart centered education's "Four C's". These Four C's are compassion,  courage, confidence and consciousness
 which all together form a fifth C- community. It is community that is perhaps most important in assisting students affected by domestic violence.

Heart-centered education, or more specifically the student community created through heart-centered education, could serve as a fundamental part of that comprehensive support.
  • Compassion will combat the potential for children affected by domestic violence to justify violent responses, and encourage other students to help a peer who may be struggling academically due to domestic violence
  • Courage will help students affected by domestic violence to speak out and overcome their fear of being judged or ridiculed for their experiences
  • Consciousness will help students affected by domestic violence to understand that they are not alone in their struggle, and to better understand their emotional responses to their situation
  • Confidence will help students affected by domestic violence to not solely focus on negative critique and to also look at the positive aspects of the learning and lives, while simultaneously encouraging individual expression and reducing the potentially harmful effect of skewed gender roles
While it is not a perfect solution and is not in any way a replacement for therapy with the non-offending parent or any currently accepted treatment for domestic violence, heart- centered education is a valuable asset in combatting the problem that domestic violence represents not only to affected children but to all children. Educators who wish to be proactive in assisting students affected by domestic violence should consider heart-centered education as a useful addition to their toolbox.
A Conscious Effort: Going Beyond Classrooms
By Katie Delis, CEI Intern

The words "international" and "diversity" may bring to mind foreign lands and vibrant city-centers. As educators of the 21st-century, it is essential to recognize that we need not look farther than our classrooms to develop a deeper understanding of international influence and global competence. Regardless of the school size or district, our learning communities radiate with a unique variety of cultures, experiences, languages and backgrounds. When a teacher is conscious of diversity and promotes student consciousness, the learning community becomes a safe haven for mutual respect and instigates a life-long journey towards global competence.

CEI's heart-centered education provides that a safe learning environment and global competence begins by creating a learning community that depends on the active demonstration of compassion. This compassion is derived from individual commitment to courage, confidence and consciousness. In a 21st-century classroom, a commitment to consciousness is vitally important for developing mutual acceptance and respect across experiences and cultures. If consciousness is defined as "the state of being awake and alive," how can we awaken and enliven our students to the beauty of global diversity?

Teacher Consciousness. The first step is recognizing our own position within the sphere of global influence. In an intriguing article on multicultural education in the physical education classroom, educators Karen Butt and Markella Pahnos explain that although "teachers cannot realistically know every aspect of every culture," they can foster a bias-free environment by first recognizing their own biases and prejudices. They cite the following probing questions for introspection:
  • Which students do I feel most comfortable with? Least comfortable with? Do these students have anything in common with each other? (e.g. dress, traditions, customs)
  • Which students to I praise (verbally or physically) or reprimand most often? Do these students have anything in common with each other? (e.g. ethnicity, race)
  • Have I arranged my learning environment so that better skilled students receive more attention and praise? Are these students given more opportunities to perform or respond? Do these students have something in common? (e.g. gender)
  • Do I tend to expect less from certain students? Am I more impatient with, or less attentive to, these students? Do these students have anything in common? (e.g. language, accent)
As educators take the time to analyze and digest their subconscious classroom behavior, they become better equipped to understand individual student needs and to help students become aware of their own influence in the world. (Butt & Markella, 1995)

Promoting student consciousness. In addition to unpacking personal biases, educators are influential in inspiring a culture of acceptance and global competence within their learning communities. In a provocative article on working in a multicultural classroom, John Franklin references a recent book by Allen Mendler, author of In Time: Powerful Strategies to Promote Positive Behavior:
  • Mendler, explains that "you need to create relationships." He explains that when students are viewed as individuals rather than marginalized by groups, they are better positioned to develop authentic relationships first in the classroom and then beyond.
  • Mendler and other experts encourage open dialogue among teachers and students. They suggest that open communication about any topic, particularly perceived and real conflicts with respect to cultural differences, provides the basis for mutual understanding.
Every interaction provides educators with opportunities to establish relationships and open communication within the classroom. As we seek to create consciousness for individual experience and background, our classrooms become safe places to practice skills for global competence.

The process of all education includes both helping students understand that they are capable and providing them with tools for future success. In the 21st-century classroom, successful students will need to be aware and respectful of the uniqueness among the earth's diverse populations and the wide variations of the human experience. By establishing and maintaining a commitment to consciousness as educators, we have the unique opportunity to foster, within our classrooms, a global citizenship that students can carry beyond the classroom.
Resiliency and Hope
Melissa D. Patschke Ed.D., Thom Stecher, & S. Alex Fizz

"If schools were only more like baseball teams!" 
                      --Kate Thomsen (Henderson, 2007).

A Winning Team

"If schools were only more like baseball teams!" notes Kate Thomsen (Henderson, 2007). She goes further to explain that just like in baseball, highly skilled players (teachers) would be brought together under the leadership of a coach who had a vision for winning. Ideally, teachers would train together, practice together, and celebrate together. Each staff member would give it their all, because everyone's goal is to win the game. Just as each baseball coach has a plan to win each game, school-wide plans need to be designed to make sure that all teachers have the skills and training to regularly implement strategies that are proven to promote the academic and social/emotional success of every child. Just as teams need resiliency to get through losing seasons and ultimately win, so do schools.

Brooks and Goldstein (2001) define resiliency as "the ability to deal more effectively with stress and pressure, to cope with everyday challenges, to bounce back from disappointments, adversity, and trauma, to develop clear and realistic goals, to solve problems, to relate comfortably with others, and to treat oneself and others with respect." Teaching this essential life skill relies on the role modeling and consistent behavior that is inherent in a healthy student/adult relationship and on creating a safe environment for students to thrive. It is imperative that the adults have those same wellness and resiliency skills that we are trying to impart to students.

Social competence, problem-solving skills, autonomy, and a sense of purpose and the future. Don't we all wish this for all of our children?  These are the four attributes that Bandura (1995) identifies as being most crucial for resiliency. Ginsburg (2007) describes the element of resiliency with the visual of a bending tree twig. The wood can be moved and tied back, but eventually it will regain its original position.

A Resiliency Model in Action

Faced with the challenges of our current educational climate, The Spring-Ford Area School District (SFASD), a suburban school district west of Philadelphia, created a grass-roots approach to building a resilient staff. The SFASD is comprised of 12 schools K-12 with approximately 8,000 students, 575 teachers, 130 support staff and 35 administrators. The SFASD has set out to empower key team members with a critical skill set. The Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation and Thom Stecher and Associates have p

The SFASD Resiliency Building Model has been implemented over a multi-year process:
$200,000, over a three year period, was provided to support Resiliency trainings, planning and efforts in the SFASD. The SFASD has executed a resiliency training of trainers (TOT) model to create Building Level Resiliency Teams. To begin, these teams were comprised of a principal, counselor, two classroom teachers, nurse and one special area teacher.

The SFASD Resiliency Building Model has been implemented over a multi-year process:

Phase 1 - Planning required the core trainers to work together for three half-day professional development sessions. This initial workshop focused on a deeper understanding of resiliency, social emotional learning, and wellness.

Phase 2 - Spreading the Word focused on how to spread the messages into the larger staff population through field work. The school district secured a motivational keynote speaker to open the school year who highlighted the importance of building resilience in children and teens. Every teacher heard the messages. The importance of building the resiliency capacity in their students was supported by testimonials and research. The core peer trainers, empowered by a supportive coaching model, led their colleagues through a minimum of three resiliency workshops during the school year. Many of the training teams transformed into action planning teams at the school level. These action teams were encouraged to find creative ways to build morale in schools. As the resiliency content built upon the assets of the teaching staff, buy-in strengthened among everyone. School cultures improved. In several cases, the trainers shifted from just content leaders to genuine collegiality leaders.

Phase 3 - Resiliency Asset Building focused on direct implementation with students at all grade levels across the school district. The program has proven to be a vested tool to elevate student voice. Youth at all levels are being supported by creative programming; social skills based instruction, empowerment opportunities, and leadership development. A sharp focus has been placed on building and fostering positive relationships. In the upper grade levels, teen mentoring has taken on an important role. At the primary ages, students learn messages of kindness, cooperation, and support. Across the K-12 spectrum, students are given strategies about how to overcome adversity and persevere with confidence through the supports of their school, family, and community networks.

Resiliency Provides Hope

Each day in the Spring-Ford Area School District relational value and confidence are added to the lives and hearts of our students. We have found that when teachers are supported, their professional capacity grows. As school teams learn together and feel the human impact together, the entire system begins to collectively understand the immense value of their efforts. 

This is not easy work. This is meaningful work. It's everyone's job. Building resiliency capacity in schools needs to be prioritized. Every school hires a custodial staff to care for the physical structure of the building. It's up to school leadership to prioritize and care for the human structure. The core of this work is hope, belief, courage, and the foundation of improving relationships. This begins with healthy, resilient educators, who take care of their students, each other, and of themselves. Everything we do to model resiliency strategies for our students is much more valuable than anything we simply tell them. Building resiliency in our schools will impact the academic and overall life success of our children. 

Bandura, A (1995). Self-efficacy in changing societies. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 
Benard, B. (2004) Resiliency: What we have learned. San Francisco, CA: WestEd.
Brooks, R., & Goldstein, S. (2001). Raising resilient children. New York, NY: Contemporary.
Comer, J. (1995). Lecture given at Education Service Center, Region IV. Houston, TX.
Ginsburg, K. (2011). Building resiliency in children and teens: Giving kids roots and wings. American Academy of Pediatrics. Elk Grove Village, IL.
Henderson, N. (2007). Resiliency in action: Practical ideas for overcoming risks and builiding in youth, families, and communities. In K. Thomsen, Fostering Resiliency and Positive Youth Development in Schools: If only schools were like baseball teams (pp. 45 - 49). Ojai, CA. : Resiliency In Action, Inc.

Dr. Patsche is a NAESP Board Member and Mentor.  This article is a follow-up to her presentation at the CEI panel on 21st Century Leadership in Long Beach in July 2015.
Be the Love

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of...

....Jackie DeShannon (1965)

It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No, not just for some but for everyone


Americans, Canadian, Italians, Chinese, Iranians, Israelis, Africans, Argentinians...

Rich, poor, healthy, sick, young, old, politicians, preachers, lawyers, web designers, educators, nurses, electricians, volunteers, scientists, artists, runners, yogis, poets, soldiers, those who have erred, those who are perfect, unemployed, mothers, fathers, babies, gay, straight, beautiful, not quite as good looking...


It's been a bumpy ride, this past year. Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston...

It's been a bumpy ride, quite a season. Columbine, Newtown, Aurora...

Love makes the difference.You can make a difference. You are making a difference. You will make a difference! It starts with heart. Today. Now. Forever.

Put some heart in your planning, orientations, workshops, welcoming, teaching, relating...


Christine Mason
Center for Educational Improvement