It sounded as if Krystal Woodral was giving school board members a raspberry Thursday when she demonstrated an anger management technique taught to kids.
With her arms in front of her body as if she was holding a large balloon, Woodral make the “THBBPHBT!” sound and dropped her arms as the invisible balloon deflated. Woodral, the family support worker at Jefferson Elementary School, said she teaches this to students who need calm down.
“It gets their mind off of what’s upsetting them,” she said.
Students also learn “pretzel breathing” and “four-square breathing” techniques. In four-square breathing, students who are dysregulated are asked to breathe in for four seconds then out for four seconds. This is repeated four times.
Jefferson Elementary staff have been learning to take a more “trauma-informed” approach to disciplinary problems, Principal Kip Wilson told the Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education on Thursday. The result is that discipline becomes more of a teaching tool than a punishment.
Each of the learning centers in USD 428 takes a turn hosting a noon school board meeting. These meetings allow staff to talk about what’s going on in their schools. Joining Wilson in his presentation were Catrina McGurk, Jefferson’s technology coach, and Woodral.
Schools throughout Kansas have been learning evidence-based practices to deal with issues created by trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). At Jefferson Elementary, the staff have been concentrating on “empathy and flexibility,” Wilson said.
While children are being taught to self-regulate their emotions, Wilson said that doesn’t always work with younger students. Jefferson staff, including teacher aides and paraprofessionals, are being coached on how to respond to difficult behaviors. They are learning to better understand each student’s “triggers” and becoming more aware of what’s going on and what children are going through outside of the classroom.
“It’s also good for a kid with a stable home life,” Wilson said.
In action items, the board accepted contributions. The following gifts were announced and approved on Nov. 12 or Nov. 27:
• The school district continues to receive donations to the Lucille Lucas Memorial Great Bend Middle School Library Book Fund. Contributions of $75 were approved on Nov. 12 and another $50 was approved Thursday.
• Hiss Sherman Wealth Management contributed $300 to Lincoln Elementary and $200 to Jefferson Elementary as winners of the Wheatland Electric “Cram the Van” food drive contest.
• Fort Larned Old Guard Inc. has donated $400 toward transportation expenses for the district’s fourth-grade field trip to the Fort Larned National Historic Site.
• First Christian Church donated $2,000 to the five elementary schools to be used for supplies for students in need. Each school will receive $400. Suggestions for fund uses were clothing, bedding or gifts.
• Kiwanis Club of Great Bend contributed $200 to the Great Bend High School Jazz Band, which performed at a club meeting earlier this year.