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BEYOND THE GATE: the woodward academy blog

Woodward Counselors Working Toward Improving Student Resilience

Jennifer Knox, an Upper School Faculty member and Woodward's Director of Character Education and Ron M. Brill Chair of Ethical Leadership, worked with Emory's SEE Learning Team to bring the executive director and co-founder of the Trauma Resource Institute to Woodward to provide training to Woodward's counselors and some administrators in strategies for equipping students with the tools they need to improve their resilience in the face of challenges. Below are her reflections on the process.

In this new role as Director of Character Education and the Ron M. Brill Chair of Ethical Leadership, I am increasingly aware of the incredible work of our counselors who engage in the essential work at each of the Woodward schools in the areas of Social, Emotional Learning and its intersection with Ethical Leadership; Diversity, Equity & Inclusion; and Service Leadership Initiatives. Our counselors work directly with students every day to ensure they are supported in their growth as individuals and provided with opportunities to cultivate skills to support their well-being and to build their capacity to bounce back after experiencing adversity in the academic and social spheres.

Integral to this process is to build a culture with compassion as a central orientation. To deepen this work, we will benefit from a common framework, language, and set of strategies and resiliency skills. When I think of the fertile ground in which Social and Emotional Learning thrives, where this common language and skill set is already rich, our team of counselors comes to mind. They serve as the axis points within our system of support for our Social, Emotional and Ethical learning initiatives by the very nature of their daily work and expertise. So, by supporting their efforts, we are more aligned with our institutional values, but most importantly, we become a healthier, more robust community!  

I have been working with Emory University's Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion Based Ethics to create a program called Social, Emotional, and Ethical Learning (SEE Learning).  This program is designed to foster social, emotional, and ethical learning in K-12 classrooms around the world and the framework is created to be used at all levels of education, including higher education and professional learning. This work builds on the work by the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) community, in which cultivating positive emotional regulation, self-compassion, and interpersonal skills has been observed to improve both academic growth and individual well-being outcomes during critical stages of childhood development. As an individual who is both a product of Woodward as an alumna and a faculty member for 13 years, I am deeply invested in this community and hope to integrate this work in ways that meet our needs effectively over time.  

In November, Woodward partnered with Emory's SEE Learning Team to bring the executive director and co-founder of the Trauma Resource Institute, Elaine Miller-Karas to Atlanta to provide training to our Woodward counselors, Emory’s Core SEE Learning Team, and two key administrators.  

Elaine Miller-Karas and her colleagues at the Trauma Resource Institute have drawn from trauma-informed care to develop the Community Resiliency Model, which describes in detail these and other practices for calming the body. Such practices can be helpful in equipping students with the knowledge and tools to understand when they are dis-regulated and how to regulate their bodies, thus building resilience in the face of challenges. These skills also provide a foundation for attention training, emotional awareness practices and for deep learning to take place. With Elaine's guidance, these skills are built into the SEE Learning curriculum. The desired outcome at Woodward is to support our efforts to create a caring environment by building resilience in our students with all counselors trained at each of the five schools.        

Elaine generously customized a four-day training in partnership with the Emory SEE Learning Team to ensure its relevance within our context and the resulting training was engaging, informative, and resonated deeply with our community.  

Some of the comments from our counselors are as follows:

  • What is something I learned at the CRM Training that I want to remember?

All of it, haha. I really loved the way they presented neuroscience... the idea that "Brain cells that fire together wire together" or "What we pay attention to grows". That reminds me how much control I really do have over my thoughts and fears. Also, I LOVE the resilience zone, specifically the idea that you can still be experiencing negative or difficult emotions and make forward progress in situations/life. -McKenzie Lawson, US

I want to remember the relationships that we formed that week with both the CRM training leaders and training attendees. I feel that I have a closer connection with the counselors at Woodward as a result. -Taylor Strawn, LS

I would like to remember to rely also on sensations and not just feelings. -Carrie Lauchlan, LS

  • What is something I learned at the CRM Training that I apply in my daily life, either personal or professional or both?

 I pretty much use the Help Now! strategies every day in my personal life. Specifically, grounding is such a source of comfort to me. -McKenzie Lawson, US

I utilized the "Help Now!" skills quite often in my daily life. When I am outside of the resilient zone I've found that leaning against a wall, walking around the room, and naming the colors/shapes I see have been beneficial to getting me back on track. These skills can be used in both my personal and professional life. -Taylor Strawn, LS

The resilience zone is something I would like to apply to my daily life both professionally and personally.  -Carrie Lauchlan, LS

  • What are my intentions about implementing CRM at my school at Woodward?  And with whom? Why?

I definitely look forward to implementing with my students. I feel I need more practice before doing so with some of the material so that it comes across authentically. I also have a friend on the school board of a surrounding county's school system and look forward to sharing it with her. These skills are so important for today's generation... it seems that life has gotten more complicated and resilience is decreased. These skills are simple, but life-changing! People today have gotten so used to instantaneous solutions and will do anything to avoid a struggle/sitting with difficult emotions. Yet, hard times are inevitable and strength comes through struggle. Helping students understand that experiencing hard times is a reality and providing them coping skills to navigate through those times is one of the richest life skills. -McKenzie Lawson, US

I have used resourcing, tracking, and grounding with my students on an individual level. In addition, Carrie Lauchlan and I will be utilizing our CRM Brulee presentation during classroom guidance with our 4th and 5th graders. -Taylor Strawn, LS

I have been implementing these tools with students individually and we plan to teach a lesson to our 4th and 5th graders once we return back from the holidays. -Carrie Lauchlan, LS

  • And finally, please share anything else that I wish for the community to know about CRM and its value at Woodward....

I think the CRM model is something everyone at WA can utilize, not only with themselves, but with their students and fellow employees as well. Once we are all certified, I'd like for the WA counselors to put on a seminar about the CRM method. -Taylor Strawn, LS

This is a skill that can be supportive to all individuals, not just our students.  -Carrie Lauchlan, LS

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