What makes a good childhood?

shutterstock_2040590By Dr. Nicole Milburn, Clinical Psychologist and Internal Consultant for Infant Mental Health at Berry Street Take Two

The Berry Street Childhood Institute has a primary task of helping the community think about what makes a good childhood. In health and welfare work, we are so often required to focus on what is not good enough and what requires improvement. To have an institute in our field that is dedicated to sharing a conversation about what makes a good childhood is a really wonderful addition.

I am a Clinical Psychologist and Infant Mental Health Specialist. The field of infant mental health has been burgeoning over the last 50 years and has much to say about what constitutes a good childhood. Infant mental health has particular strengths in this area, having come from the fields of both psychoanalytic theory and developmental psychology.

Psychoanalysis has a long history of thinking about what lies inside people’s heads; what conscious and unconscious drives and motivations are acted out in behavior, and how people see themselves in relation to one another.  Continue reading “What makes a good childhood?”

Mindful Co-working: the art of working together with confidence and enjoyment

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On May 12th I had the great pleasure of delivering training on mindful co-working. The training was hosted by the Berry Street Childhood Institute and participants came from a wide range of agencies around the country, including Berry Street.

Co-working is an aspect of our working lives that can easily be overlooked. It’s easy to assume that colleagues who are respectful and who have the right professional values will automatically work well together. That may be the case with routine or purely technical work, but where work is emotionally demanding, psychologically complex and ever-changing, co-workers need to develop a trusting and supportive and relationship that goes beyond ‘just the facts.’

During the training, we discussed the five principles and ten key skills of mindful co-working. We also looked at the importance of finding common ground at the start of the co-working relationship, the importance of planning and de-briefing, and how to anticipate and practice mindful repairs when the co-working relationship ruptures.

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One idea that emerged from our discussions was the importance of bravery, in particular the bravery needed by co-workers to discuss emotionally charged topics and to ‘clear the air’ when ruptures occur. Where co-workers are brave enough to discuss the tricky parts of their relationship, and to work through them with mutual respect and a genuine desire to work well together, their relationship can be greatly improved.

This approach to co-working, where colleagues pay purposeful attention to the quality and tone of their relationship, and where they work through difficulties, contributes to a virtuous circle of communication in the workplace, where thoughtful and respectful interaction among colleagues leads to more of the same, at all levels of the organisation. Multiply this effect across the workforce, and you will have a transformed working environment where people love to work and where they do great work together.IMG_1001

For more information about this topic, a resource that may be of interest is my book Mindful Co-working, published in 2013 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Post written by:  Clark Baim, UK presenter and Berry Street Childhood Institute Fellow

http://www.childhoodinstitute.org.au/ClarkBaim

The Berry Street Education Model

Everyday Strategies for Teachers

The Berry Street Education Model was created in response to teachers requesting strategies.

  • How do I engage my struggling students in learning?
  • How do I manage difficult behaviour?
  • How do I build independence for learning?

The Berry Street Education Model has been design to support teachers as they meet the complex needs for students who struggle from the effects of chronic stress or traumatic stressors.  Our model also helps teachers to feel empowered within the classroom to teach the whole-child.

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Through our work with schools across Australia, we know that the best strategies help teachers to set up and reinforce a pro-active, pre-emptive, and de-escalated strengths-based classroom.  We know that teachers need strategies that they can start using tomorrow; and a whole-school approach is often required to unify practice to nurture success for all students.

Here is one of our favourite strategies:  GOLDEN STATEMENTS

As teachers, we hate to feel like we are nagging our students all day long.  

“Take out your books. Now turn to page 27. I’ll wait…”

Please turn to page 27. PLEASE turn to page 27…!” 

How is the following statement different in tone and mood?

“I will begin teaching when I see all books turned to page 27.” 

The first example makes the student the subject of the sentence, and the students can choose to either follow the direction or stall. The second example make the teacher (“I”) the subject, and the teacher declares what she is going to do, when she is going to do it, and the conditions for success. In the second case, the teacher maintains positive power in the classroom while describing what she is going to do rather than what she is asking the students to do. For instance, when you say, “You will…” you lose control; when you say, “I will…”, you gain control.

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Golden Statements are special statements that teachers can use in classrooms to:

  • Give directions
  • Issue requests
  • State their expectations
  • Repeat their expectations

The last function listed here is our favourite: Golden Statements allow teachers to repeat themselves without feeling like a broken record or a complaining nag.

Golden Statements build relationships because they keep both student and teacher in thinking mode. They stop the arousal escalation of the teacher because the teacher feels that they are issuing their requests in a reasonable manner. Golden Statements empower students because students can see that the teacher is holding the relationship and has clear expectations for the activity at hand.

Please check out the following link on more information, including links to research papers. Please note, we are currently in a research and evaluation process with University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education, a joint effort with the Centre of Positive Psychology and Youth Research Centre.

http://www.childhoodinstitute.org.au/EducationModel

 

Post written by: Tom Brunzell, Senior Advisor, Education, Berry Street Childhood Institute

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BSCI Fellow, Richard Rose

It is great to b4_RichardRosee back in Melbourne with colleagues at the Berry Street Childhood Institute.

Since last October, we have thought about the potential of life story work with traumatised children as a service for young people as well as the need to consider new thinking and assessments for outcome research.

I am looking forward to meeting with friends and making new contacts as I travel eastwards to present with SAL Consulting in Sydney and Churches for Christ in Brisbane and Townsville. These events will be followed by life story presentations in Hobart and Melbourne for colleagues interested in this effective approach with traumatised children.

When working with young people and their carers, mainly around therapeutic life story, we share stories and learn about each other. In the same way, as a Fellow of Berry Street Childhood Institute, sharing thoughts and sharing approaches is always an essential ingredient to developing best practice… to meet and learn from those attending presentations and engaging within the workshop approach creates a perfect platform for theoretical and practice advancement.

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This is my sixth year of sharing practice with organisations in Australia and my fourth with Berry Street (the last two years with Berry Street Childhood Institute). On this visit I have the opportunity to reflect on therapeutic care models in international settings that I have involvement with. In particular, how these therapeutic approaches can be incorporated within the service delivery for children and young people placed in out-of-home and home-based care at Berry Street.

Currently I am working with several projects in countries across the world on therapeutic interventions and evaluation processes. While in Melbourne, there is time to consider how we develop and introduce new thinking and new approaches to promote the best services for children and young people… watch this space!

Post written by: Richard Rose, Fellow, Berry Street Childhood Institute

Editor’s note: Register Now to attend Richard’s training in Hobart and Melbourne.

Berry Street Education – Pt. 3

Pt 3 in a three part series on Berry Street Education

Our knowledge about trauma’s shutterstock_160640774consequence on the neurodevelopment of children helps us when our young people become heightened, leading to flight, fight, or freeze behaviour.

Dr Bruce Perry has informed our work at Berry Street. Moving beyond the medical model, we work with Dr Perry’s Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (and his emerging Neurosequential Model of Education) as a structure for understanding the neurobiological development of children who have histories of threat, neglect, humiliation, degradation, deprivation, chaos, and violence.

We are building upon the Berry Street Model of Education, which encompasses nine domains of our trauma-informed education, such as the importance of the integration of clinical, welfare approaches, building positive relationships, developing community/pathway linkages, etc. Teens in library

Significantly, Berry Street has a commitment to teaching children in mainstream settings through the collaborative creation of the Child Safety Commissioner’s program: Calmer Classrooms.

 

Post written by Tom Brunzell, Berry Street Childhood Institute Senior Advisor, Teaching & Learning.

Berry Street Education – Pt. 2

Pt 2 in a series on Berry Street Education

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Building upon the foundation of academic rigour and our teachers’ curriculum design for deep-understanding, we turn our focus toward non-cognitive skills.

We define these skills as the performance capacities necessary to support persistent, resilient, growth-mindsets of learning.  Research tells us that self-regulation is a better predictor of success than IQ.  Developing the strengths of courage, gratitude, kindness, and curiosity hold equal importance as learning literacy decoding skills.

We hold the firm belief that Berry Street can be an innovative contributor to the education for our most vulnerable students by integrating our understanding of trauma’s effect on neurodevelopment and evidence-based practice from positive psychology, mindfulness and well-being.

Four key drivers:

1.             Staff well-being and staff self-learning:  Staff must have an in-depth understanding of well-being and working from a strengths-based perspective.  How can staff best cultivate positive emotion and character strengths to be the best teachers/mentors for our students?

2.             Dual-purpose, implicit curriculum:  We seek to take our academic curriculum and revision it through a “dual-purpose lens.”  How will we teach both a literacy objective and a lesson on persevering in the face of obstacles at the same time? Every lesson has the potential to teach cognitive skill and character strength.Teen studying

3.             Explicit and specific character learning:  We believe that in addition to a dual-purpose curriculum, there are specific time-tabled ways to teach non-cognitive skills and through our own practice and refine these opportunities throughout the school day.  (Ex: Sessions that incorporate our knowledge from therapeutic movement, martial arts, creative arts, and personal development / psycho-education curriculum)

4.             Relationship based resiliency:  Our teachers know that relationship is key to our student’s emotional-safety required for learning.  How can we nourish relationships to increase our students’ hope for their own futures by understanding of non-cognitive skills?

 

Post written by Tom Brunzell, Berry Street Childhood Institute Senior Advisor, Teaching & Learning. 

Berry Street Education – Pt. 1

Pt 1 in a series on Berry Street Education 

StudyingBerry Street Education seeks to:

  • Advance models of secondary schools to meet the needs of educationally disadvantaged / disengaged young people with a history of trauma, abuse or neglect.
  • Bring together three fields of research:

o   trauma-informed

o   neurodevelopmental

o   positive psychology/education, uniting them in a strong culture of academic achievement.

  • Inform the teaching practice of vulnerable children through this integrated approach in a continuum of school settings.

Cognitive & Non-Cognitive Skills at the Berry Street School:  CHARACTER COUNTS

At Berry Street, our knowledge of trauma’s impact on our students’ development guides our education program design. We seek to understand and undertake a bold next step to our curriculum development and school culture: the integration of our knowledge of trauma’s impact on neurodevelopment along with the best practices around the sciences of well-being, human flourishing and positive psychology.

Our students come to us with histories of education neglect, substance abuse, generational trauma, and a great deal of personal struggle.  We seek to create dual-purpose educational experiences: building both cognitive skills and strengths-based resilience.

We know that for our Berry Street students to succeed in school, in transitional career pathways and beyond, we must teach a mosaic of both cognitive and non-cognitive skills.   We define cognitive skills as the skills necessary to understand and process information—the foundational academic skills for literacy, maths, inquiry-based learning, vocational knowledge and electronic media.

Post written by Tom Brunzell, Berry Street Childhood Institute Senior Advisor, Teaching & Learning.