About 200 teachers are getting a chance this week to dig deeper into Conscious Discipline, a program designed to use productive relationships between teachers and students to promote lasting change in the classroom.
The seminar comes at very little cost for most of the Douglas County educators attending, thanks to the financial support of the Ford Family Foundation in Roseburg.
Dr. Becky Bailey, who developed the program about 22 years ago, conducts the seminars by satellite from the company office in Orlando, Florida. It’s a trauma-informed social and emotional learning program that was founded on safety, connection and problem-solving, with concepts applied in the classroom that extend to every facet of life.
Analicia Nicholson, director of educational services for Douglas Education Service District, said the local support of the program came from the leadership of the districts in the county. Several groups of teachers had attended Conscious Discipline seminars previously through the Ford Family Foundation’s teacher’s program. They were impressed with that they saw.
“After hearing them report back, they realized that this fit in really well with the social-emotional learning strategy that we’ve been working on over the past few years,” Nicholson said.
The program is designed for older elementary students all the way through high school.
Amy Speidel, a master instructor for Conscious Discipline, said the program was developed after educators recognized that there seems to be less resiliency, self-regulation and management of emotions.
For the program to be successful, Speidel said, adults need to be building these skills.
“We are saying we are going to build our skill set and ability and our internal mechanism for calming and recognizing our own triggers and the language to use, to be thoughtful and helpful, so that we can pass that on to the next generation,” Speidel said.
Speidel said she thinks the program has become so popular because of violence in schools and students that are disconnected and living with fear.
Not just teachers, but administrators, mental health providers, and parents can benefit from the program, Speidel said. At the end of the week, Speidel said the attendees will take away an understanding and feel the power of the pieces that the program puts together.
It’s highly unusual that the seminar is held in a small town like Roseburg, but the support of the Ford Family Foundation made it possible. The tuition is not cheap. It costs $1,100 per person to attend but most of that was covered by the foundation. Anne Kubisch, president of FFF, said the educators are really investing in it during their summer break.
“Normally it’s just too costly to do it in a place like Roseburg, so the educators requested it. We looked into whether we could underwrite the cost of it, and decided to go ahead and do it,” Kubisch said. “It really shows how we in Douglas County are bringing the latest and best thinking about how educators can meet the needs of their students.”
The six-and-a-half-day seminar is a big commitment for the teachers, who are taking their own time to learn about Conscious Discipline.
“I like it,” said Diana Juarez, a high school teacher at Phoenix School in Roseburg. “It is based on structuring connections, and it’s just daily habits that you’re building.”
Michelle Lind, a teacher at Coffenberry Middle School in Myrtle Creek, was learning about Conscious Discipline for the first time and it’s a program that appeals to her.
“It does, in teaching kids how to connect and then hopefully talk about what’s going on, so they can choose to get along with others,” Lind said.
She will take the information back to her school and school officials will look at what parts of the framework they think they can implement.
Sutherlin West Intermediate School just finished its second year of the three-year rollout of the program, and principal Trish McCracken is sold on it after seven of her teachers were sent to an institute in Arkansas to learn about the Conscious Discipline program, thanks to a grant from the Ford Family Foundation.
McCracken was instrumental in getting the seminar, which sold out quickly, to come to Roseburg. Sutherlin sent 15 teachers to the event.
“Our program is going strong, and more and more people are committing to it at the elementary level, and the kids really like it,” McCracken said. “It makes them feel calm at school, and gives them a way to solve problems.”