"I'm so frustrated! It's so difficult to get my students to listen, cooperate, and be respectful ..."

"I don't think my teacher or my peers care about what I want ..."

"I don't like school ... "

All teachers are familiar with the exhausting frustration of forcing kids to respond all day. My unique offering gives teachers a specific roadmap to earn organic cooperation and respect from their students. The punitive model for responding to behavior has proven to have significant effects on teacher's job satisfaction, as well as measurable impacts on our society. Let's move into a developmental model, and away from the outdated behavioral model.

The values that teachers want to pass on can only be done so with power sharing, accompanied by the game-changing question:

What do I want student's reasons to be for doing what I want them to do?

I coach teachers in building classrooms where they are empowered with warm empathy and communication skills that offer an entire new interpretation of student behavior. I help teachers to have easier days, and students to have more connection to the learning opportunities. Teachers replace outdated, extrinsic, rewards-punishment strategies for “making kids learn and behave” with intrinsic, needs-based motivation. They can then support student's natural desire for learning.

My work aims to provide school communities with guidelines for a radically new kind of learning environment, a life-enriching learning community, with a set of characteristics that includes:

  • students and teachers learn from each other
  • school rules are agreed upon by all who are affected by them
  • learners are motivated by intrinsic values, needs, and desires
  • there is no coercion of any kind

When students have choice, know they matter and have a space for their authentic voice, they quickly become more receptive to new learning material. Hours spent on managing behavior becomes available to teach content. As a result of my training and coaching for educators, you can expect to re-balance the division of your hours spent that will allow more time working on academic content and critical thinking and less time trying to beg for focus, cooperation, and respect.

I've spent countless hours with young people aged 12-19 teaching relational, communication, and self-management skills. Both one-on-one and in the group setting, I listen for what matters most to them, and provide an empowered road map to acquire that. Many of them are looking to their peers for advice, and they quickly tell me that relationship education and communication skills reign at the top. Having completed the Parent Leadership Program in 2016, I further discovered and practiced the rich strategies of compassionate communication for young people.  

Collaborative Classrooms through Social Emotional Learning

What if the consequence for student's behavior was a space for their social-emotional learning (SEL) to take place? 

Committed to making changes that work, I guide educators into the intricacies of the developmental model, as opposed to the old behavioral model. This frankly changes their world. By pausing their exhaustive ways in order to try on needs-based structures, processes, and practices, these educators quickly notice things differently inside their classrooms. The course I am available to teach educators is titled Collaborative Classrooms through Social Emotional Learning which combines the core competencies of SEL with nonviolent communication, sharing circles for connection, restorative practices for when agreements have been broken, an overview of the brain's main functions, interpersonal neurobiology, adverse childhood experiences, and more.  

The Brain

An upset brain is not a learning brain.

Stress pulls any system out of security, and makes it literally impossible to take in new information. Safety is a neurobiological state when we experience belonging, mattering and that our voice is heard. Humans are built to have our emotional self run the show. The experience of warmth and resonance brings fibers of our prefrontal cortex to attach to the limbic system, the emotional heartbeat of our brain. Every time we have a sense of being understood, these fibers are laid down.

How this works:

In our left hemisphere, neurons are arranged in a grid, and they need order in order to transfer information. Our left hemisphere is our engine of doing, it runs on dopamine which supports focus. If the left hemisphere is running the show, it has less access to one's body and relationships, and it’s looking outward. Our left hemisphere loves to have learning, efficiency, clarity, order, structure, predictability, and information.

In our right hemisphere, neurons are arranged in a web, and they need a resonant warmth holding in order to translate chaos into clarity. Our right hemisphere is where we receive other people’s queues and signals. The more the right hemisphere leads the way the more we’re in contact with our deepest values and needs, and can then act on those values and needs. Our right hemisphere loves to have self-expression, connection, warmth, to matter and belong, friendship, tenderness, meaning, trust, care, love, and to be seen and heard.

In a brain that doesn’t have strong emotional connections between the left and right hemispheres, the left hemisphere has to be dominant in order to keep the body safe as it moves through the world. Our brains are built to shift left under stress. The more stress our school communities are under, the more hierarchical they become, and the less capacity they have to create warmth and resonance for humans to flourish in.

As a teacher, the more you are focused on your curriculum, the more your right hemisphere goes off line. This isn't bad, it simply means you are less likely to receive student's queues and signals that they aren't available to take in new information.

School is not just a learning space, it is a relational space.

If someone is in a state of upset, they need warmth and resonance in order to come back and learn and integrate. Until we create other models and systems that do this, the cycles of stifled learning will continue.

Effective empathy can take a student that is triggered and upset, and bring them from their amygdala, the brain's home of trauma, and pair it instead with the hippocampus, in order to integrate and deliver them back into the present moment.

As adults we've created dominant coping mechanisms for stress. The classroom goes where the adult teacher's brain goes. The more integrated the teacher's brain hemispheres are, the more quickly the classroom processes happen, the deeper the connections go, and the more quickly interruptions are resolved. I help teachers see their own patterns, and learn different ways to work with their reactions to student's behavior in order for maximum learning to take place.

By teaching young people social and emotional literacy, not only are they are able to navigate emotions more effectively and enjoy overall life more, they are able to further develop their academic capacities.

THE five core competencies of social-emotional learning

THE five core competencies of social-emotional learning

"I learned how to listen to my students beyond their words and into their hearts. I'm less quick to judge now. My personal life and my classroom are more peaceful and calm." - LeAnne, Middle School Teacher

"I was shocked to find the authentic lives of my students by using connection circles. The NVC skills and restorative principles helped me tremendously with my most difficult challenges at school. My job is easier now!" - Shana, HS Teacher