True grit: Kingsport City Schools seeks to promote resilience in students

Rick Wagner • Dec 11, 2017 at 2:08 PM

KINGSPORT — The Student Resilience Team of Kingsport City Schools continues work on ways to help students become tougher.

In other words, it would help students have more “grit,” according to a school system official helping spearhead the effort.

Julie Malone, director of alternative learning for KCS, Tuesday gave the Board of Education an update on the efforts at Cora Cox Academy, the school system’s alternative school for grades 6-12, but it is also being used across the school system and grade levels.

When and why did this initiative start?

The effort started in 2016 with a re-evaluation of alternative learning in KCS and included the concept of restorative justice, which is in a nutshell helping students have empathy by putting themselves in the position of others. Malone said the team is reading books, articles, watching videos and otherwise researching what other school systems have done.

A lack of resilience, Malone said, can cause low attendance, apathy, low graduation rates, high unemployment, high drug use, behavioral problems and a high crime rate. Ways to counter the problem include mentors, social emotional curriculum, position relationships, the modeling of resiliency and talking about it, technology and computer instruction, teaching “cool downs” from anger and fostering restorative practices.

She said that involves problem solving, empathy and fostering positive relationship with parents and caregivers, as well as encouraging volunteerism. She said social emotional learning has five components: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills and social awareness.

What are effects of trauma on students, and what is restorative justice?

Malone said ACES (adverse childhood experiences) include chronic trauma and acute trauma. Ways to support students with ACES issues include personalized help for families and students, regular medial care and training for students as needed. At Cora Cox, which has 40 students, Malone said that of 11 who agreed to participate in an anonymous survey, one student had eight ACES, three had five, three had four, one had three, one had two and two had one. Of the 40, she said that 23 have at least one ACE.

Resotrative practices used at Cora Cox include restorative circles, classroom meetings and morning meetings. An issue, she said, is equality versus equity. If all students receive the same consideration and support, she said that is equality. However, if each receives different types and levels of support and consideration, she said that is equity. She cited a book on trauma called “Paper Tigers” and said she remembers the acronym HALT, which stands for students who may be hungry, anxious, lost or tired.

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