ON THE ROAD – Back to Cottage 4

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ON THE ROAD WITH CAL FARLEY’S INTERNATIONAL CONSULTANT Forty years ago today I walked in to a cottage on a residential program campus on the North Side of Pittsburgh; a place that would be my own primary residence for the next three years. I would live there five days a week working with twelve girls and boys. I just took the job as a place-holder until I started law school. It turns out that law school was not meant to be part of my story. I had no intention that this would be the beginning of my career. As it turns out, it was the most meaningful and important job I’ve ever had. It set the course of my life and was the gateway to my profession. As I looked forward to this anniversary, I have reflected a great deal on that time and place. The teachers who have influenced my life cross a wide spectrum of fame, disciplines, experience and age. There were three great influences on my professional life in the earliest days of my career. First was the work of Nicholas Hobbs and what is known simply as Re-ED. His focus on wellness rather than pathology, on teaching rather … Continue reading

Shooting for the Stars

On Monday, 14 Year-old Ahmed Mohamed, brought his homemade clock to school to show his engineering teacher. By the end of the day he ended up being taken away in handcuffs (read more here). What should have been an opportunity to encourage Ahmed’s aspirations in engineering turned into suspicion by educators and a police accusation of a hoax bomb.

Although it is widely understood that schools must ensure the safety of all stakeholders, how can we as educators create spaces where students like Ahmed may grow as an engineer or inventor? How do we make inventing commonplace so that when a homemade clock shows up our first thought isn’t bomb? Instead our first thought could be “Wow! Another cool kid-powered invention!”

At Cal Farley’s we have begun to build those inventor spaces into our daily lives.  Designing, programing, and building are skills we actively encourage and promote on our campus.  We believe that a whole community can become a learning lab, a concept we call Community As Lab.   To support this effort we have created hands-on learning laboratories where youth have dedicated spaces for tinkering, designing and making.  We believe that these activities stimulate learning by providing real world application for principles learned in the classroom.

Thankfully for Ahmed there was an outpouring of support from all over the world encouraging him to continue doing what he is doing.  Do you know any youth like Ahmed?  Here’s how to get them and your school involved…

How to become involved:
Create a maker space in your school.
Find a community makerspace, like these in Dallas and Milwaukee, or check out TechShop, a chain of maker spaces located across the United States.
Look for a Maker Faire near you and take a  young maker to visit and actively participate in the event.

Books I recommend:
Design. Make, Play: Growing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators by Margaret Honey and David E. Kanter
Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager

I leave you with this video from Community As Lab’s recent rocket launch.  We truly do want our kids to shoot for the stars.

ON THE ROAD – In Memory of Bonita Smith

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ON THE ROAD WITH CAL FARLEY’S INTERNATIONAL CONSULTANT In Memory of Bonita Smith During my forty years in this work, I have been blessed by the presence of many wonderful teachers. The often-stated phrase “on the shoulders of giants” applies to the careers of many of us working with young people and families across a range of related disciplines. Before most of those teachers made their way in to my life, however, the learning curve was very steep. My introduction to this work, in a residential program in Pittsburgh, was really by happenstance and with my every intention of proceeding on another career path. My two teammates and I worked on a rotating live-in schedule of four days on and two days off and much of our learning was through immersion. In the earliest days of my career I had yet to be trained in much of anything except the rudimentary understanding of behaviorism imparted to us by the more senior staff. The light at the end of the tunnel was Re-ED, based on the work of Nicholas Hobbs, Campbell Loughmiller and others. Re-ED was among the first strength-based, principle-based frameworks for working with vulnerable young people and their families. … Continue reading

ON THE ROAD – Where do we fall, where do we stand?

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ON THE ROAD WITH CAL FARLEY’S INTERNATIONAL CONSULTANT Where do we fall, where do we stand? Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. Winston Churchill Imagine that you chaperone a group of fifty-seven elementary and middle school students on an outing.  There, these young students were accosted with verbal insults and doused with beer, not by other students but rather by other adults. As I imagine myself being in that situation as a chaperone, I think of the anger that would well up in me and my struggle to focus on safety while setting a good example for the kids. It would be a challenge to re-channel my fight reaction to a more measured response. That’s just me and yet I know it isn’t just me; many of you might also experience the same double struggle in this situation. On January 24, 2015, Native American students, along with their chaperones, from American Horse School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota did experience the scene described above. They attended a minor league hockey game at the Rapid City Convention Center. The students earned this outing … Continue reading

ON THE ROAD WITH CAL FARLEY’S INTERNATIONAL CONSULTANT

 

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Helping Them Find Their Way

A “mob” of Aboriginal kids sat in a group and played music while others played basketball.  They beamed with pride as they ascended the climbing wall that had been constructed for the special day. Painted faces with butterflies, Spiderman and other designs adorned the smiling faces of many of the nearly 100 young people there. It was family day at Woolaning Homeland Christian College, one of nine schools in the Northern Territory Christian Schools system. This was a day of celebration in the residential school. Families came to see exhibits of their children’s school work, interact with the staff and school leadership, and show the younger siblings of the students already enrolled what the next step for them might be like.

Sitting just outside Litchfield National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia, 2 hours’ drive from Darwin, Woolaning operates on land generously leased from the Petherick family, traditional land owners in that area. The school was a vision of a family matriarch and began in 1992 in collaboration with the NT Christian Schools system. This is a big event of the school year in this program and takes a great deal of planning and effort on the part of the staff to make it a success. In addition to the food, accommodations, supervision and festivities, transportation is a significant undertaking. Because the program serves students from across a large expanse of the Northern Territory, staff drive small buses up to six hours to bring families to the event and return them home the following day. It is exhausting, satisfying work for thirty staff members who carry out their faith, in part, through the work they do with these precious young people throughout the year.

The Aboriginal people in Australia are among the oldest indigenous cultures in the world. While their culture and traditions remain intact in many respects, life for the aboriginal people in Australia can be very difficult. Like indigenous people in every part of the world, the presence of colonists from different places and cultures overtook their country and forced many changes on them. They have survived and adapted through the arrival of foreign hunters, the farmers, the miners, and many families continue to try to survive the “Stolen Generation” that began at the end of the nineteenth century.

Aboriginal children continue to be 8-10 times more likely to experience some sort of governmental intervention or out-of-home care than non-aboriginal children. Life expectancy for aboriginal people in Australia is more than 10 years less than for non-aboriginal people. The Australian government and the aboriginal people themselves are working to address many of the significant issues that remain as a result of colonization and the resulting traumas. Aboriginal people continue to struggle to find a healthy balance between traditional ways and the constantly evolving world around them.

Aboriginal children between the ages of twelve and eighteen are enrolled in Woolaning Homeland Christian College by their families. While there the children experience support for their cultural, spiritual, health, and academic and vocational needs.They are served by a very dedicated staff of house parents, educators and administrators with demonstrated compassion and commitment. The experience children have in this setting can build capacity to not only enhance their survival but also help prepare them to thrive.

Additional Information:
Woolaning Homeland Christian College and Northern Territory Christian Schools

http://litchfieldnationalpark.com/

The Stolen Generation

 

Decoding – The Key to Connecting

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Decoding is a critical first step to respectfully connecting with a person who is experiencing negative emotions and expressing those emotions in sometimes harmful or self-harming behaviors.  Three critical steps to decoding someone’s behavior are: To observe the behavior, To ask what the person might be feeling, and To acknowledge their feeling. A recent example of decoding I used was with a young man I’d not met before whom I was asked to interview.  I introduced myself and asked him if he would mind if I spoke with him.  He sat in the chair, crossed his arms and had a scowl on his face (not a happy camper). My decoding went like this: 1.  Observe: Tommy, I noticed you have your arms crossed and your jaws clenched, 2.  Ask: Are you angry? He responded with a yes. (If he would have said no, I simply would have asked; What are you feeling?) 3.  Acknowledge: I can see you’re angry. (An empathic response that provides connection) I then asked him what caused him to be angry and he said was angry because he was supposed to be at another activity he was looking forward to. We then went on and had a … Continue reading

A Good Read – The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog

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Dr. Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D., Senior Fellow of the Child Trauma Academy and Maia Szalavitz, an award-winning health and science journalist are the authors of this pivotal work about trauma and the developing brain. The book is collection of stories of some of many the children and families Dr. Perry has worked with during the span of his career as a child psychiatrist and neuroscientist. Why we love this book: 1. Each chapter is a distinct case history and is written in an engaging narrative format. 2. The stories explore many crucial concepts related to neurodevelopment including the stress response system (freeze, fight, or flight), associations and attachment. 3. With each case study, Dr. Perry breaks down complex concepts into small, understandable pieces making this book a great learning and teaching tool. Why You Should Read This Book: Statistics clearly illustrate if you work with children you will likely encounter more than a few that have been exposed to trauma, violence, chaos and neglect. The Boy That Was Raised as a Dog illustrates how the different types of trauma effect emotions, behavior and a child’s ability to learn, and create and maintain relationships. Throughout the text Dr. Perry offers clear … Continue reading

ON THE ROAD WITH CAL FARLEY’S INTERNATIONAL CONSULTANT

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Seems like there is always something to learn when traveling… Measuring Success by Statistics and Smiles: The week of March 16th I attended the 7th annual conference of the European Federation of Conflict Management and Treatment in Education and Care (EFeCT) in Budapest, Hungary.  I’ll write more about that organization and conference in a subsequent entry.  Now I want to focus on the program visit experiences of the two pre-conference days in the Hungarian cities of Győr and Salgótarján. Győr is a city in the western part of Hungary, sitting about halfway between Budapest and Vienna, Austria.  We visited a school there, Kossuth Lajos Elementary School, that served young people who could not function well in regular community schools.  Most of the students were from the Roma community in the city.  The school is poorly funded.   In 2010 our colleagues from Pressley Ridge Hungary became involved in a training and consulting capacity and, according to statistics in four key areas, since then student performance has improved.  The four areas measured are school attendance, academic performance, serious discipline meetings, and continuation in school. In the period between 2008 and 2010, prior to the involvement of Pressley Ridge Hungary, the trends in school attendance, academic progress, and continuation in school were … Continue reading

Two Faces?

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We have found that the use of illusions are often helpful to illustrate various complex ideas about how the brain functions. Look at the picture.  What happens? This is a picture of half of a human face.  Your brain quickly reacts to this incomplete pattern by turning the face sideways – which, to it, makes more sense.  To continue looking at the half face photo would mean the brain is not allowed to do its work of completing the pattern.  Sometimes the brain is so anxious to make sense of the world around it, it will add or subtract information in order to satisfy this desire to predict thereby – better ensuring its continued existence.  Because our brain’s primary directive is to keep us alive, many of its functions underscore this drive.  In order to stay alive, it is helpful to be able to anticipate what is going to happen next.  Our brains are constantly and continuously trying to predict what will happen, next words, next actions, in an attempt to be prepared in a response.  A extension of this is the need to complete patterns.       

On the Road with Cal Farley’s International Consultant

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Seems like there is always something to learn when traveling… Judgment Calls & Compromise: Flying through Amsterdam Airport Schiphol yesterday my wife, Marty, and I watched a scene unfold at a gate security area the likes of which I have never observed in a thousand flights anywhere in the world. A passenger casually waited as his carry-on bag went through the x-ray machine. As an agent was called to inspect the bag the passenger stood calmly, showing no sign that he expected anything to be wrong. Standing together at the end of the security conveyer, the agent proceeded to open the bag, remove some clothes, and expose a food processor. Yes, a standard sized food processor. The agent removed the food processor and disassembled it, soon to expose the double-edged blade, which is common to such devices. While we could not hear their conversation in whatever language it was spoken, the non-verbal communication was very clear. The agent looked at the double blade, made a look of consternation, and slowly shook his head at the passenger. The passenger, in turn, looked back at the agent with a look that said, “but sir, I must have my food processor.” Back and … Continue reading