Schools rise to the challenge

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To the Editor:

We at NAMI MV (National Alliance on Mental Illness) want to thank Superintendent Matt D’Andrea, Assistant Superintendent Richie Smith, and director of student support services Hope MacLeod for working so diligently with NAMI to bring Think:Kids to the Island for the recent teacher professional development day. We also want to thank the more than 300 teachers and administrators who joined us for the three-hour presentation.

Dr. Stuart Ablon, the director of Think:Kids in the department of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, taught the course via Zoom. Dr. Ablon taught extensively on collaborative problem solving, stressing that “kids with challenging behavior don’t lack the will to behave well. They lack the skills to behave well.”

All the teachers practiced assessment: listing the behavior to be changed, identifying the situations in which a child is challenged, and analyzing the reasons (lagging skills) the child is challenged. Teachers discussed creating plans for problem solving, and the importance of involving the child in the plan to collaborate on effective behavior changes. One teacher commented, “My biggest takeaway is to think of students with behavioral challenges as you would ones with learning difficulties, and that they share the need for empathy, skill building, and collaborative support.”

Numerous teachers expressed an interest in becoming a certified Think:Kids instructor, and forming a partnership with Think:Kids to train all Martha’s Vineyard teachers. We at NAMI would love to bring more Think:Kids programs to the Island. We are currently researching grants and funding to make this possible.

In light of COVID and all the additional challenges our Island teachers are facing, we were thrilled with the incredible turnout, positive energy, and enthusiastic response of all the teachers and administrators participating. We are blessed to have so many caring educators!

Lisa Belcastro, NAMI MV coordinator
Cecilia Brennan, NAMI board member