Elephant in the Room Campaign
The Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) will participate in the Elephant in the Room Anti-Stigma Campaign for awareness about mental illness in the workplace, and in the classroom. Initiated by the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, the national campaign is designed to build awareness and eliminate stigma associated with mental illness. The CDSBEO is the first school board in the province to partner with The Mood Disorders Society of Canada on this initiative.
A blue elephant, which will be displayed in schools and board locations, will signify that the CDSBEO cares about the wellness of others, and that the Board is a safe place to talk about mental health, without fear of being looked upon differently, thought of less, or punished. The initiative will help to build understanding around mental health issues, and to build a Board culture of empathy and support.
Building Resiliency and Positive Mental Health
The CDSBEO is committed to building Resiliency and positive mental health for all of our students. The Board has identified a Continuum of Support providing Prevention, Targeted Intervention and Specialized Supports for students to develop resiliency and restorative practices, to stop bullying and support positive mental health.
School excellence involves Positive Social Capacity and excellence in instruction. When these combine, students experience positive educational outcomes and relationships, which are essential to resiliency.
The challenge for all of us is to build relationships and create environments and opportunities that promote Positive Mental Health.
Our goal is to build the Resiliency and Positive Mental Health of our students by using a strengths-based approach to support students becoming positive, productive and responsible individuals.
Resiliency surveys are completed by all students in grade 3 to grade 12. Results are used to empower individuals and school teams to engage in and better understand the strengths and skills that are essential for navigating life’s challenges and becoming healthy adults.
School Resiliency Response Plans and Student Resiliency Action Plans are developed to utilize internal and external strengths to build student resiliency and Mental Health wellness and reduce inappropriate and bullying behaviour. Our Board Plan is to build student resiliency using a strengths based approach with tiered intervention starting with prevention strategies for those children and youth with moderate and significant strengths. Providing targeted intervention for those vulnerable students and to access specialized support for the impoverished students.
Board wide Resiliency Surveys allow schools to look at their own school results and student profiles in order to build student resiliency and mental health. Our primary and junior students are extremely resilient whereas the high school students, in particular grade 12, see themselves as more vulnerable and less resilient.
As a Board we are trying to focus on building Mental Health strengths and protective factors to change this trajectory and to help adolescents to feel empowered, and to cultivate sensitivity , acceptance and self-control, self-efficiency and planning and decision making skills. School and student Resiliency Action Plans are developed to identify strengths as well as areas to strengthen.
Restorative Processes aim to establish an environment where students are empowered to solve problems through authentic conversations using Restorative Proactive Classroom Circles, Questions/Conferences and Formal Conferences, in which all stakeholders have a voice in finding a solution.
Restorative Practices do not seek to deny consequences for misbehaviour, but focus on helping students understand the real harm done by their misbehavior, to take responsibility for the behaviour and commit to positive change. A Restorative Approach works with all participants to create ways to make things right and make plans for future change.
The Restorative Practices Continuum moves from informal actions such as affective statements to the use of informal conversations and the Five Questions, to more formal classroom circles or formal conferences.
Proactive circles are rooted in the belief that “When we make others know that they belong, (and that we care); Then we all know we belong (and are cared for.)” Jean Vanier
It also functions on the belief that “People are happier, more cooperative and more productive when people in authority do things WITH them, rather than TO them or FOR them.
We believe in the power students have to interact with others and solve problems in positive ways. Proactive circles also allow students to practice effective communication which is a life skill that we and our students can and must use in all relationships.
Continuum of Support
The Continuum of Support for building resiliency and positive mental health also serves as the Board Bully Prevention and Intervention Plan. It is based on developing a whole-school faith community that is safe, inclusive and accepting, utilizing our Gospel values and reconciliation.
A strengths-based approach is taken to building the Resiliency and Positive Mental Health of students, by developing students’ empathy, understanding and using of effective strategies to prevent and respond to bullying if it occurs in ways that will stop future bullying. The plan promotes prevention by a “Call to Care”, with targeted interventions by a “Call to Action” and a “Call to Rebuild” through specialized supports.
Specific prevention programs, targeted interventions and specialized supports provide a continuum of support for students. Restorative practices including proactive classroom circles, restorative questions/conversations and formal restorative conferences enable schools to create environments in which bullying behaviours are reduced and students are empowered to resolve conflicts and deal with difficult situations.
Roots of Empathy
Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based classroom program that has shown significant effect in reducing levels of aggression among school children by raising social/emotional competence and increasing empathy. The program reaches elementary school children from Kindergarten to Grade 8.
In the Roots of Empathy program, a parent and baby (who is two to four months old at the start of the program) from the community visit a classroom nine times over the course of a school year. A trained Roots of Empathy instructor visits with the family to guide children as they observe the relationship between the baby and his or her parent. The instructor also visits before and after each family visit to reinforce teachings. There are 27 classroom visits in total in a Roots of Empathy program.
In the program, the baby is the “teacher.” With each family visit, the instructor leads the children in noticing how the baby is growing and changing over the course of his or her first year of life. The children also watch the loving relationship between the parent and baby and see how the parent responds to the baby’s emotions and meets the baby’s needs. The attachment relationship between a baby and a parent is an ideal model of empathy.
Children learn to understand the perspective of the baby and label the baby’s feelings, and then are guided in extending this learning outwards so they have a better understanding of their own feelings and the feelings of others. This emotional literacy lays the foundation for more safe and caring classrooms, where children are “Changers.” They are more socially and emotionally competent and much more likely to challenge cruelty and injustice.