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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Building Bikes, Building Hope

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Many of the children and young people that Berry Street help aren’t told by their parents to get up and go to school every morning. The abuse, neglect and instability these children deal with daily means that going to school is not on top of their to-do list.

This is why Berry Street runs an independent school (with three campuses) for children who have been disengaged from mainstream education.

The teachers at these schools do their best to get their students involved in school and receive the education and future they deserve. They try to make school-life more engaging for the students in a variety of creative ways, such as a recent bike-building activity.

The students at the Noble Park campus were given the opportunity to build their own bikes through The Happiness Cycle. This is an initiative run by Coca Cola to provide teenagers with bikes to make them more active.

Principal of the Noble Park School, Susan Nilson, says the students responded well to the program.

“It was a really positive experience for the kids. It was a good hands-on activity,” Nilson says. “It enabled the kids to feel valued because they were given the opportunity and responsibility to build something that they get to keep. It gave them a sense of purpose and accomplishment.”

Nilson says the students got really involved and enjoyed the day. Harry*, 16, was excited by the idea of building his own bike.

“The main reason I chose to do the program was to get a bike. That’s pretty cool!” Harry says. Being involved in an activity like this and receiving a bike isn’t something the students would normally experience given their backgrounds, but Harry says getting the bike wasn’t the only positive.

“It was a worthwhile experience. Apart from getting a bike, we got to be around a different variety of people, which was interesting,” Harry says. “It was good because we got to spend time with our friends in a different environment.” IMG_0955

Expert teacher, Travis McMahon, attended the activity and says the students put a lot of effort into building their bikes, as well as acting appropriately, which at times can be a challenge for them.

“The kids were really good. If someone needed a hand with their bike, they’d jump in and help. It was really collaborative,” McMahon says. “These are young people who don’t usually deal well in social settings, but they dealt with being around all the other people really well.”

Like the other students, Harry experienced a difficult upbringing, resulting in him being asked to leave mainstream education. He’s been attending the Berry Street School for a year now and says he’s happy to be there.

“I’ve made a lot of friends here, which is good, and I can get an education. That’s very important to me.”

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of students.

Post written by: Grace Kelly, Berry Street Media Intern

Launch of the HEARTCORE book

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Join us in celebrating the release of HEARTCORE, Berry Street’s new book featuring inspiring personal narratives from the Berry Street School students and photographs of paintings by international street artist, Kaff-eine.

Inspired by the students’ stories, Kaff-eine painted 20 public walls in Melbourne’s CBD, Collingwood, Fitzroy, Noble Park, and Morwell. Each wall was beautifully photographed for the book by Rowena Naylor.

Help support Berry Street and our efforts to improve outcomes for vulnerable young Victorians by purchasing a copy of HEARTCORE and spreading the word.

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Pre-register for your advance copy at: http://heartcorebook.com.au

BOOK ON SALE SEPTEMBER 25.

International Speaker – Jenny Fox Eades

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During my time in Australia, it was my pleasure and privilege to tell stories about heroes to two groups of Australian teenagers. I told my grandmother’s story, of struggle and humour and courage in the slums of the East End in the early part of the 20th century.

And I told the story of John, Violette and Abdullah – all of whom gave their lives for their country, one a hundred years ago, one fifty years ago and one two months ago. The teenagers were those who attend the Morwell and Noble Park campuses of Berry Street School.

I was in Australia (I live in the UK) for ten days and the reaction and welcome and feedback I had from the students at the Berry Street School was as insightful, as moving and as humbling as any I heard on my visit. The students were able to enjoy a moment’s quiet to listen to a story simply told – and to identify strengths in the characters they had heard about. They said the lesson was ‘fun’; they said it was interesting; they said it was ‘practical’ – you could touch and feel and see what we were talking about.120729_161

I have worked with stories and strengths for ten years now and I am always amazed by how quickly this simple but profound language prompts students to ask deep questions and to reflect on what they hear with clarity and insight. The students were not new to the language of strengths. Their teachers had clearly been doing some great work in this area that I was able to tap into and build upon.

I immensely enjoyed working with Australian educators during my visit. And telling a few more stories…

 

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. 

Trauma Informed Positive Education: Wellbeing strategies in relationship-based classrooms

Tom BrunzellIn this session, Berry Street’s Tom Brunzell spoke about how to engage young people, specifically in the context of the Berry Street School.

The Berry Street School caters for young people aged 12-16 who have become disengaged from mainstream education, and strives to re-engage them and promote pathways into employment.

The part that stood out to me was when Tom introduced the concept of ‘flow’ as proposed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – a state where a person is completely engrossed in what they’re doing.

Imagine a situation where a child is entirely uninterested in school, but the area they’re interested in – the place in which they ‘flow’ – can be used to help them learn and grow as a person.

He also spoke of the importance of value clarification exercises at Berry Street School.

Both students and teachers are encouraged to reflect on which skills they have built on regularly, on their own and as a group, with the students’ skills posted on the wall to encourage the students.

The Berry Street School recently celebrated it's 10 Year Anniversary
The Berry Street School recently celebrated it’s 10 Year Anniversary

This isn’t just an idea, or an activity which is done once a term, but a weekly exercise to reinforce the strengths of the children, as well as the areas in which they are improving.

What way might you be able to help increase engagement around the young people you come into contact with?

Post written by youth blogger from SYN Media.