Making a difference —Teachers at H-W care about students

By Marcie Klomp

Some of the most influential people in a child’s life are teachers. They can make learning exciting, open up new worlds and be role models.

Teachers at Howard-Winneshiek do all that and more. They also nurture troubled souls and bring stability to young lives. They accomplish that just by caring.

Scott Wiley works with at-risk students in the junior high, and Trish Hartman is counselor at the high school. They spoke to the school board at the Jan. 13 meeting, held in Lime Springs. Both recently attended the Bullying Prevention and Intervention Intake and Investigation Training and gave a summary of what they learned.

Wiley also told board members what the district is trying to do to help prevent bullying. One of the easiest ways to discourage one student picking on another is just being there. Teachers are more visible in the hallways, which cuts down on name calling, threats and pushing and shoving.

Wiley and his coworkers have taken it a step further. “We have a lot more teachers greeting them in the morning. If a kid looks [like he’s having a bad day] I let Mr. Sickles (junior high counselor) or Mrs. McCabe (elementary counselor) know, so they can talk to them.”

Wiley also smiles and chats with students. He noted a student could have had a fight with a parent or sibling at home or classmate on the bus and is already feeling down when they get to school. Sometimes just smiling at someone who is feeling down can make all the difference. It turns a bad day into a better, if not good, day.

But no matter how much smiling or happiness a person tries to spread, one bullying incident can undo all the good. Then it is time to address that issue.

Wiley said, “Dealing with situations when they happen is important. If someone is swearing, the teacher needs to talk to them right away. Be on top of things right away, then aggressive bullying will stop right there.” This will also let the bullied child feel safe.

Teachers have to be diligent about watching out for bullying. Hartman admitted, “People like me (counselors) might take it for granted that we know what bullying is. Others might not. Sometimes bullying is just a shoulder bump in the hallway.” She added teachers and other adults need to look for lonely or isolated kids and actively look for bullying situations.

About the conference, Wiley felt he and Hartman learned more about the investigative process than anything else. Those investigating bullying situations should not be counselors because of the relationships they have with students.

Supt. Carver added, “Kids will seek a relationship with a teacher who cares about him.”

Wiley was proud to say H-W was doing things properly. “A week before we went, I sat through an investigation with an administrator. At the conference, I found the staff member did it correctly. That was reassuring.”

Wiley went on to explain HEART (Heartland Educational Assessment Resource Toolbox) data.

Each reported incident of bad behavior is acknowledged and documented. He only presented information on the K-8 building. During the first semester, August through December, there were 66 incidents of behavior at the junior high, 84 at the elementary and four at the early education center. The top five types were disruption of instruction/school activity, abusive language/profanity, harassment, overt disrespect and physical aggression. Physical aggression was the top reported behavior in pre-K-sixth grades.

The top times for behavior problems in junior high was mostly in the mornings. To combat that, as stated earlier, there is more teacher participation in the hallways and cafeteria. In the younger grades, most of the behavior incidents took place around recess and lunch.

The most common place where kids acted up was in the classroom, followed by the hallway at the junior high level. For younger students it was classroom and recess.

Wiley said, “We are far below the national average [in the number of referrals per day per 100 students], which is great.” He admitted it spiked in October but noted numbers went down since then. At the elementary level, numbers are half the national average.

There is no easy answer when dealing with bad behavior or bullying. The number one thing a parent, friend or anyone else can do is be vigilant. If a child is being bullied, report it immediately. Staff cannot fix something if they don’t even know there is a problem. It’s okay to be a tattletale. School officials will be as discreet as they can to find an answer.

In the meantime, teachers and staff at all the centers have the best interest of their students at heart. They want all students to have a positive environment in which to learn and grow.


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