Sheri Samson
Hawthorne Elementary School counselor Christine Mayes shares information she learned on dealing with mental health to the school board.

Christine Mayes, Hawthorne Elementary School (HES) counselor, shared information regarding a summer conference she had attended entitled, Beyond Paper Tigers. This grant-funded experience went beyond the basic concerns of bullying as it explored mental health issues that can surface when a child is surrounded by a trauma-induced environment.

Mayes explained the process by using a simplistic illustration showing the brain divided into colored divisions.

“We all live with some upsets, but most work on a daily level known as the executive state, which regulates information and the proper emotional levels in our brain, assisting us to be calm and exercise logic to balance out upsetting situations. When a child – or even an adult – are in extreme daily trauma within their circumstances, the survival portion of the brain is at work. It is proven that children existing in this survival mode of brain activity cannot learn.”

Mayes was taught tools to help identify a potentially high-risk, traumatized student so intervention can be effectively used in advance of a “melt-down” situation. By presenting caring interaction, a child can be regulated into a calmer state-of-mind, using identifiers and proven techniques to enhance a classroom or school environment.

“We must remain a safe and secure place for all of our students to learn,” Mayes shared. “Addressing those within our population that may be working through trauma-levels outside of school can assist in opening up avenues of learning and calmness.”

Principal Stephanie Keuhey and Mayes, presented copies of the book, “Help for Billy” as reference material provided for the School Board to review. Keuhey stated that the teachers at HES studied the book while acknowledging “today’s classroom of children has changed”.

Mentioning that more interventional knowledge and social trainings are required for teachers today, Principal Keuhey also stressed that strategies to help deescalate a situation must be arranged within the classroom in advance of any potential disruption.

“We need to adjust to a conscience mindset of dealing with what is really happening to our students outside of school, because it effects what happens in our classrooms. Our goal is to get ahead of the problems, rather than dealing with uncontrolled out-bursts that usually require outside assistance.”

Preschooling a child early-on, can help in the scope of “group transitioning” while assisting with identifiers during their earlier stages when a child may require some potential assistance, Keuhey explained. She also advised that HES initiated the use of small groups, counselors and group texting by staff, to keep interruptions to a minimum, while balancing an alert mindset in the areas of the overall school structure.

A series of online resources have been made available by the school district, as well as on-going training, which is segmented into staff trainings.

Superintendent Walt Hackford later added that sometimes proper mental health resources within the local area has been a concern for giving appropriate referrals, even while local agencies attempt to work with one another.

“It is difficult for many people to travel out-of-the-area to receive appropriate counseling or to tap into the resources they may need.” Hackford continued to emphasize the importance of using grants to send our own school district professionals to conferences or seminars, as the information they receive can then be filtered back into our district teachers and staff in an effective manner toward a betterment of education within the district.