Kay Hill, Coordinator of Social Emotional Health for Troup County School System (TCSS), said that training employees for challenging student behaviors is all about keeping everyone safe. When a Mindset Training team came onsite for two days of rigorous training for 16 TCSS employees, the focus for Hill and the training facilitators was on communication skills, crisis prevention, de-escalation of situations, and taking a proactive approach to challenging behaviors.
“We look to raise awareness and enhance prevention skills because we are building a culture of prevention when responding to challenging behaviors. It is important that our staff understands and is prepared to demonstrate skill proficiency in both the physical aspect and the crisis communication model of Mindset Training. This training helps them earn certification through the Mindset organization,” said Hill. Last school year, discussions of assisting students with social and emotional needs continued to gain traction as teachers and administrators began to recognize the need for additional training in dealing with students who may have challenging behaviors.
In response to the request, the district hired Hill to assist staff with formulating crisis counseling plans. They also began piloting limited wrap-around services to students and families in the Callaway zone, which Hill oversees. A Wrap Around Services Model focuses on partnerships between agencies in the Troup County community that actually come into the school and support students with services such as counseling, medical needs, and even assistance with purchasing eyewear. Hill says the idea is that TCSS work directly with community partners to offer assistance that can help the whole student even if it is outside of normal school hours.
For example, TCSS has implemented a licensed school-based mental health clinician as part of wrap-around services. This program is being piloted in the Callaway zone, as well. It is a partnership between Grace Harbor and TCSS. Hill said with this mental health services collaboration, “Troup County School System is able to provide therapy in school so students can deal with deeper emotional needs. This is at no cost to the system. What we hope to see is a decrease in discipline referrals, an increase in attendance, and improvement in academic areas.”
With Mindset Training, Hill continued by sharing that certifications build student learning and a culture of success by promoting positive choice, initiating trust, and avoiding power struggles. “The Crisis Counseling model that we teach empowers the child to regain a sense of control. They develop their own plan of action to resolve the crisis while receiving support from a caring adult. This approach takes into account that students can, and will, choose alternatives to aggression if given the opportunity. We teach the participants specific communication skills to accomplish that,” she said.
The overall goal is to have at least three employees in each school facility Mindset certified. In addition to the full course, TCSS is conducting ongoing training across the district for the Verbal De-escalation component so all staff will be trained in the Crisis Counseling model.
Hill said the training doesn’t stop with her and the team of Mindset trainers, “We can offer this component (Verbal De-escalation) in a faculty meeting to promote the basic principles and teach the specific communication skills needed to de-escalate a crisis. Our team is also available for more specific consultation if that is needed to help a teacher better manage challenging behaviors.”