Most of the time I act out when I don’t get attention, but staff at Pace listen when I tell them how I’m feeling. When someone listens to how I feel, they show that they care about me even during the bad times. Today I wanted to talk to someone and I was able to. I still feel a little angry, but the talk was helpful. Sometimes staff can get angry too and they model how to talk about it. Everyone has problems and they don’t want to speak about it, but that only makes it worse. So, open up your ears when someone tells you how they feel, even if you’ve had problems with that person

— Pace Student

“Teachers who are stressed, unhappy, and unsupported by their peers are more inclined to treat their students with disrespect.”[i]

At Pace we know, through our understanding of trauma, that we are sponges for our peer’s emotional states, whether we want to be or not.  And as we all know, children are even “spongier” than adults. They absorb our energy – whether positive or negative.  How we talk to each other creates a “climate” that can be pleasant and respectful or can be clique-ish and unfriendly.

In a recent article in Educational Leadership: Respect-Where Do We Start?, Marie-Nathalie Beaudoin, makes a strong case that the adult culture of a school is key to developing respectful students.  But as simple as this insight sounds, it’s not easy to change the culture of any group of adults, and even harder to change a culture where the adults are constantly under pressure to interact positively with children.  Their needs and behaviors can overwhelm even the most cheerful disposition.

Why is it so hard for people to stay positive?  Ms. Beaudoin, who uses brain research to make her point, says that “It’s easy for people to dwell on negative affective states because, according to neuroscientists, there are more neural networks in the brain associated with negative affect than with positive affect (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, & Vohs, 2001); some scientists even speculate that these may be in the ratio of 5 to 1.”[ii]

Her suggestion: start by evaluating the conversation in the lunchroom.  Are people talking about their problems?  Are they complaining to each other or engaging in “one-ups-man-ship” about the latest student horror story?  Are they talking about the work or are they talking about each other’s interests and lives? »Read More

In our class we recently learned about beetles: Darking Beetles.  Each student was given their own beetle and a magnifying glass to observe their beetle.  We learned beetles are insects with 6 legs, 3 main body parts, and an exoskeleton. However, learning beetle facts was only the prelude to the fun.  The kids made a poster board sized beetle race track and were able to race the beetles in bracket style races.  Watching the students’ excitement as they cheered and shouted for their beetle to cross the finish line first was priceless. »Read More