Schools Building Agency and Identity
Schools are the first community children participate in outside of their families. Agency is developed as students learn to interact and form relationship with others in a setting away from their homes and guardians. Identity is influenced as students discover how they are treated by members of this new community.
Awareness of Choice Words at My School
As previously mentioned, my school is a residential campus for foster youth; all of the students have been removed from the care of the biological families due to abuse or abandonment. This increases the impact of the choice words of my colleagues and I say to our students. Instead of simply helping to enhance students’ agency and identity, we often work to repair the damage of the abusive words our students have internalized.
Trauma informed practices are helping us to develop an awareness of the way adverse childhood experiences affect our students. We attempt to speak in a way that connect behaviors to trauma instead of character traits. We use words such as triggered, escalated, and incident instead of temper, rage, and fight. However, we do not yet intentionally practice using choice words.
Choice Words Schoolwide
If I were the school leader, Ii would focus on the needs of our unique student population to determine how choice words can to help them learn, develop, and heal. I would work with our campus mental health experts and continue to research best practices in helping traumatized children. I would challenge the staff to also independently engage in this inquiry. I would create opportunities for school, clinical, and residential staff to discuss insights and collaborate to establish campuswide choice words best practices.
Embracing Choice Words
This school year, I am already intentionally focusing on using choice words in my communication with students. I am focusing on using affective statements as the foundation of my classroom behavior plan. I am doing this to help my students build empathy and develop positive behaviors, which are especially needed as a result of their childhood experiences. We are four weeks into the trimester and it has been challenging to remember to consistently use these choice words, but I am already noticing positive changes in my students’ behavior and the learning environment.
I am simply sharing my experiences and successful use of effective statements with my colleagues during informal conversations and staff meetings. I am intentionally refraining from pushing this practice onto them, because we are still just beginning restorative practice work as a team. I am also sharing with our restorative practice coaches. I hope that affective statements will eventually become schoolwide choice words.
I will continue to …